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.
Visiting Yankee Stadium – the new one, that is – and watching the Pinstrippers host the Toronto Blue Jays was the focal point of my recent trip to the New York City. It was the fourth major league ballpark I’ve ever been to and easily the most awaited.
Opened in 2009, the so-called New Yankee Stadium was built across the street from the original Yankee Stadium. I had tried in vain to get tickets at the elder stadium before it was knocked down, but the only available tickets cost an arm and a leg through scalpers.
I missed out on the House that Ruth built, but did make it to the underwhelming House that Jeter built.
Don’t get me wrong, New Yankee Stadium has a lot going for it.
Architecturally, it’s beautiful. The ballpark stands as a monument to the impressive legacy of Old Yankee Stadium, mimicking many of the original field’s most distinctive qualities and emphasizing that this is the home of the most successful franchise in baseball history.
The architectural team of Populous insured that the dimensions of the field are exactly the same as the old park, although the new seating is slightly smaller the original field at 52,325 (including standing room) versus 56,936.
Also, as you can imagine, the New York Yankees know what they’re doing when staging a baseball game. Every little detail during the game was skilfully handled, from the anthems to the TV timeout features.
Charming touches abounded, especially when the Yankees’ current roster recited Lou Gehrig’s famous speech to commemorate the anniversary of his final game with the club.
And the food, my God, the food. Every stadium has a signature dish. Something that is distinctly theirs. At Yankee Stadium it’s garlic French fries with melted cheese. It’s gooey, salty, cheesey and above all else potent enough to guarantee some space on the subway ride home.
Populous did a lot to emphasize the history of baseball in New York City including moving Monument Park from the older building, creating a Yankee Museum and, of course, a centralized merchandise store off the stadium’s main concourse.
But that’s one of the key problems with New Yankee Stadium.
In their slavish devotion to replicating the style and design of the older building, they did little to improve on the old stadium. Yes, everything is new and shiny but facilities are few and far between.
As a result, there are long lines just about every step of the way. Crowds arrive early, so there is a long wait for most of the features of the park, especially Monument Park, the Yankee Museum and the merchandise outlet.
In fact, the line for Monument Park was cut off an hour and a half before the opening pitch because security personnel needed to be able to clear it out before game time. Same thing with the Yankee Museum – lines had to be cut off because they were so long.
I’ll allow that I went on Independence Day, when most of the crowd was probably from out of town and therefore more likely to go to the touristy corners of the stadium, but surely they could have predicted that those would be crowded sections of the stadium.
Instead, the entrance to Monument Park is in the middle of a cramped corridor. Compared to other contemporary stadiums like cross-town rival Citifield or Detroit’s Comerica Park, which put an emphasis on wide-open space and breezy walkways, it’s a confusing choice.
Ultimately, it’s worth going to Yankee Stadium to say “I’ve been there.” Visitors should expect high prices, long lines and cramped quarters. I would not want to be a Yankees fan and have to attend more than one game per season at that ballpark.