Sitting in the bleachers at Citifield, home of the New York Mets, is a world away from watching a game across the East River at Yankee Stadium.
Just getting there takes 45 minutes by subway train, taking you far from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the relatively open space of Queens. Given its proximity to LaGuardia airport, the drone of planes is in constant competition with the organ as opposed to the bass-heavy hip-hop and rock played by the Yankees.
Most striking of all, the atmosphere is friendly and family-oriented. It's hard to believe that it's the same city.
Although the exterior to Citifield is rather bland, the interior has an eclectic, retro-feel. The seating sections are layered on top of each other and crammed into odd angles, although the seats themselves still have lots of leg room.
Spaces like the Jackie Robinson Rotunda tie the history of the Mets to the Brooklyn Dodgers, their spiritual ancestors of in the National League. That retro vibe translates well into Citifield’s concourses that are full of modern concessions modelled to look like traditional ballpark stands.
I attended New York’s heartbreaking 8-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on July 5th. Since the Mets hadn’t played on Independence Day, the stadium was in full patriotic splendour. Although the Yankees had a stirring tribute to Lou Gehrig the day before, as well as the traditional singing of God Bless America, the Mets topped them in their Fourth of July celebrations.
Before the opening pitch at Citifield they had members of the U.S.O. singing the anthems of the various divisions of the American armed forces. Then they had a Lieutenant-General swear a group of recruits into the army.
During every stoppage of play they ran video of soldiers from Queens and Brooklyn in Iraq and Afghanistan greeting their families who’d been given seats at the game. It was a touching and heartfelt display, and really illustrated the connection between the Mets, their fans and those serving overseas.
That’s what was nice about the entire Citifield experience – it really balances the old and new and emphasizes the connection between the Mets and their fans in the boroughs of New York City.
Also, as a relatively neutral observer, they succeeded in drawing me in to the game and I found myself rooting for the home team despite myself.
Although Yankee Stadium has more history and significance behind it, as a venue for watching a baseball game I’d take Citifield any day of the week.