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Mets: Answering Steve Cohen’s call to improve Citi Field

NEW YORK - APRIL 05: Fans outside the stadium prior to the Opening Day Game between the New York Mets and the Florida Marlins at Citi Field on April 5, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 05: Fans outside the stadium prior to the Opening Day Game between the New York Mets and the Florida Marlins at Citi Field on April 5, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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It has been a busy week for New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, and not for the right reasons. Just over one month after hiring Jared Porter as General Manager, a move mostly lauded around the league, Cohen fired Porter after ESPN reported that he had sent several disturbing text messages and images to a female employee in 2016.

The Porter situation is alarming and Cohen acted appropriately in quickly dismissing him from the team. However, the next day, fans learned that the Mets lost out on prospective free agent center fielder George Springer to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Others on this blog have written that it would not be a disaster to pass on Springer, with which I agree. I would expect that Cohen has another surprise or two planned before Spring Training.

On the lighter side, Mets owner Steve Cohen continues to engage with fans on social media

While not as important, Cohen and his active Twitter feed has also featured some more light-hearted and fan-friendly content. Last week, Cohen tweeted that he was looking for “creative ideas” for changes to Citi Field. Fans were quick to respond with a multitude of ideas.

Over 8,000 responses later, fans presented just about every idea – some serious, many not – to the Mets owner. Some fans wanted to see family-friendly activities, such as carnivals on select game days. Other ideas did not exactly meet Cohen’s approval:

I spent more time than I’d like to admit going through fans’ responses, and I’ve finally settled upon my top improvements I would make to Citi Field. Some of these ideas were inspired by the fans’ responses, others are my own, and possibly insane, ideas.

The Return of Keith’s Grill is a necessity

Undoubtedly, number one on my list of necessary Citi Field improvements is the return of Keith’s Grill. The popular hamburger stand that bared the name of fan-favorite and legendary broadcaster Keith Hernandez abruptly closed prior to the 2019 season.

Staples included the “Mex Burger,” a delicious burger with a kick that featured guacamole and jalapeños and the “108,” which paid tribute to New York City with its pastrami and spicy mustard on a pretzel bun. Not to mention, the Tootsie Pop provided with every order was a unique twist on a side item.

If anyone knows what led to the fate of Keith’s Grill, please let me know. But Mr. Cohen, if you’re reading this, I think I speak for all Mets fans that this stand needs to grace the Citi Field concourse again.

Add a “quiet section” for families and sensory-sensitive individuals

Admittedly, I stole this idea from a fellow fan on Twitter, but I love it as a potential stadium improvement.

As Maggie also pointed out, the White Sox already feature a sensory room. This room is designed to accommodate special-needs individuals who may need a break from the sensory overload that is common at a baseball stadium. It includes textured walls, weighted blankets, and specialized lighting that help fans take a sensory break so that they can maximize their enjoyment of the game.

Related to the sensory room, I also fully support a “quiet section” of the stadium that turns down the decibels of the PA System – or, alternatively, just turning down the volume throughout the entire stadium.

Maybe it is my old age – I turned 30 last week – but I miss being able to actually talk to people in the stands and not being drowned out between every inning and pitch. Honestly, I’d be okay with complete silence throughout the entire game, but I suppose I am willing to compromise.

More Tributes to Mets History Inside and Outside of the Ballpark

This is a no-brainer, but the Mets need to pay more homage to their history. The Mets Hall of Fame inside the stadium is a great feature, but it is also tucked away in the Citi Field rotunda and easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.

Fans should be greeted with more tributes of past Met greats, with the number one priority being a Tom Seaver statue. Thankfully, the team finally plans to unveil a Seaver statue in 2021, many years overdue.

The Seaver statue is a great first step, but it should not stop there. More statues should be placed outside the gates, as well as on the concourse. Figures like Gary Carter, Jerry Koosman, and Mike Piazza should be appropriately honored throughout the park.

The Paul Konerko statue in Chicago is one of the several statues of White Sox greatest featured on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse. Similar statutes should grace the Citi Field stands.

Citi Field really is a beautiful stadium, but the one thing it lacks is proper tribute to the past. Prominently displayed monuments throughout the park can easily fix this issue.

Cut Down Wait Times for Concessions

I admit that I do not have an immediate answer for how to implement this, but it is an area that needs to be addressed. Too often, fans are missing multiple innings waiting on long, slow-moving lines to buy overpriced food and beverages for themselves and their families.

The Citi Field food scene is fantastic, but I rarely find myself enjoying it because I do not want to miss substantial game action while taking out a second mortgage to finance my steak sandwich purchase.

The long lines also crowd the concourse and reduce the flow of foot traffic, further agitating fans that are trying to get to their seats to enjoy the game they paid to see.

Perhaps having more staff at the concessions stands is the best way to remedy this, which I know are sometimes not run by direct Citi Field employees. Still, while the concession staff works tirelessly, it seems often that there are simply not enough workers on duty to adequately handle the demand at these food stands.

If nothing else, there should be large monitors at every stand that allows fans to easily watch the game while they are on line.

Yes, these are not cheap improvements, but I think Uncle Stevie has deep enough pockets to finance these projects and improve the fan experience at Citi Field.

Open the Gates Earlier

You’re probably beginning to realize that I hate lines. In addition to my deep hatred for long concession wait times, the lines to get into Citi Field equally grind my gears.

On weekend games especially, lines like these grow long and quickly. Now, I do accept that due to security issues, it may be difficult to eliminate these long wait times. So as a compromise, Citi Field should open its gates at least three hours before first pitch.

I know this isn’t an easy solution – it would likely require paying more staff to occupy the ballpark for additional hours. Still, many fans would benefit from this improvement.

This would also allow more fans to catch Mets batting practice. Typically, the Mets hold batting practice before the visiting team. Usually when I get into the stadium the visiting team is already on the field for batting practice. While entertaining, I would much rather see my team hitting dingers into the stands.

Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I witnessed a Mets batting practice session, and I am one that tends to get to the ballpark quite early. Opening the gates earlier will allow fans extra time to get settled in, take in the scenes and, of course, add revenue for the concession and souvenir stands.

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