In 1989, a retro ballpark trend broke ground in Baltimore, Maryland, eventually resulting in what is still considered one of the greatest venues in Major League Baseball – Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Since that day, unless you’re Miami or Washington, basically every new ballpark has followed the design scheme of the old brick, concrete and steel parks built in the early part of the 20th Century. This was a response to not just the simplistic ballpark design that trended in the 60’s and 70’s, but a general architectural trend borne out of the post-war environment of America.
So, in 2006 when the Citi Field design was released, the New York Mets and the architectural firm, Populous (formerly HOK Sports), had almost a decade and a half of new-age retro ballpark design to emulate. The general design is an outstanding one, but if you go around to places like Camden Yards and Coors Field, those older ballparks still have a fresher and more original feel than Citi Field in my opinion, no matter how pleasant the experience is (the original dimensions notwithstanding).
And yes, no matter how much I criticize the place, let me preface by saying I immensely enjoy taking in a ballgame at Citi Field. It’s fantastic sitting and watching a ballgame there (and walking around to watch the ballgame), especially compared to the new Yankee Stadium, which is oh so bland and fails at its attempt to recreate history. Regardless of those feelings, I still feel there is work to be done to continue to correct some of the mistakes they initially made.
There’s nothing we can do about the original dimensions, which still plague the place when, for example, the ball bounces off the upper black part of the wall in left field which originally used to be in play but is now (and rightfully so) a home run. The designers and the people in charge of directing them tried desperately to recreate the quirks of the old city ballparks such as (of course) Ebbets Field. What they forgot about the old city ballparks is that those quirks were borne out of having to build within a city block, not an expansive parking lot. So, the outlandishness of what the dimensions looked like when it opened in 2009 cannot be altered because they are structurally untouchable. Oh well.
There are, however, minor details that can lead to a more aesthetically pleasing experience. Forget about the fact I’m asking the team to spend money on stuff outside of players, which is what they should do first and foremost. We’re just brainstorming here. OK? Here we go…
- Keep Making it Feel more Metsie.
A huge dig on the place when people first laid their eyes on it was that there was a void of Mets history, and they were right. Between the Ebbets Field-like facade to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, fans felt like the powers-that-be were honoring the Brooklyn Dodgers, Fred Wilpon’s childhood team, more than the almost 50 years of memories “The New Breed” had now collected.
Though I clearly have an affinity for The Boys of Summer, working on developing an HBO-style TV series about Dem Bums and the borough they played in, I completely agree with the sentiment that there was an extreme lack of Metsian pizazz. The Mets heard those calls and responded, at first by installing sepia photos of the ’69 and ’86 teams throughout the ballpark, then in 2010 by installing the Mets Hall of Fame, both good moves (that shouldn’t have taken fans complaining to happen). Color Photos, including large trading cards, have made their way throughout the ballpark and along the Citi Field plaza. The stairways and bathrooms, which were void of color, now have coats of orange and blue paint. And of course, when they did change the dimensions, the outfield walls were turned blue.
- Change the seats from Green to Blue and Orange.
I get that the generic color of ballpark seats is green, and some people have pointed out that the Polo Grounds seats -the Mets’ original home – were green as well. One of the endearing things about Shea Stadium, however, were the different colors each tier had. Plus, the Reds seats are red; the Cardinals seats are red; the Dodgers have blue seats, yellow seats and orange seats; the Royals seats are blue; the Yankees seats are navy blue. Why not give Citi Field more character by installing Orange seats and Blue seats, however the team wanted to coordinate that throughout the place?
- If you’re going to copy the Ebbets Field facade… COPY THE EBBETS FIELD FACADE.
Yeah, most of us agree, as stated above, the Mets need to honor their own history before honoring their ancestors, but that doesn’t mean the rich history of the National League in New York SHOULDN’T be honored with the proper balance. While the original shape of the Ebbets Field facade, as copied by Citi Field, is breathtaking in its own right, leading to a majestic approach as one walks towards the ballpark….there are probably Major League facades that pay homage better than the exact copy of the shape.
As does the Ballpark in Arlington.
And then there’s Miller Park (the monstrous dome notwithstanding.)
(Though some of these do invoke the Shibe Park Facade as well…)
Listen, I know a lot of the fine details I am looking for have to do with the respective eras’ architectural style, and that probably, no matter how much I say it should have, wasn’t gonna happen this time around.
But take a look at this….
Now, take a look at that.
I know it’s completely outlandish of me to even make this request, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t state my desire: I want all the half-assed arch and column design stripped down and all the fine details of the original Ebbets Field design added. This will NEVER HAPPEN. I know, but, like I said, I feel that’s what should have happened. If they were all about Ebbets, they should have been ALL ABOUT EBBETS. Plus, those back manilla columns should have continued to be brick, or at least should have been round columns.
Anyway, the first 2 requests are clearly more based in reality than the last one, and even then, I’m asking a team that hasn’t spent money on players in a while to spend money on aesthetics. A winning team should be the first priority, and then the ballpark will be the greatest ballpark in the world.
Correcting other mistakes made over the years, however, regarding how the fanbase feels about the ballpark, should be a priority as well.
But get me a run-producing outfielder.
And a shortstop.
And a World Series victory.
Then I probably won’t complain about these little ballpark details so much.
Also, you can visit Sam Maxwell’s personal Mets Blog here. And for the latest on a Brooklyn Baseball TV Series Sam is developing, Like the Bedford & Sullivan Facebook page, follow on twitter here, and listen to the research process here.