Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for March, 2009

The Unveiling

Posted by JD on March 30, 2009

First impressions matter, and my first impression of Citi Field was wow! I know that sounds silly, but initially I could not process how impressive it is.  The first thing that struck me was the size of the concourses.  My friend and I entered through the left field gate (I’m going to call this the Endy! Gate…love that silhouette above the entry way).  There was a baseball game going on, and maybe one out of every 50 people in attendance were actually watching it, but there was ample room for everyone to wander the concourses. 

While wandering, we noticed that the food options have been greatly enhanced.  Yes, there is a Shake Shack and many other premium options, but the selection and location at the typical hot dog/beer spots has been upgraded, too. And though it may just be limited to today’s test game, prices were not as extreme as I expected.  Having spent $7 on a beer in midtown just last night I was stunned to only spend $7.25 at Citi Field.  That can’t last, right?

Even the bathrooms have been upgraded. The space-age urinals were a constant source of conversation. I overheard several people chuckling about their design and performance while wandering the concourse.

One of the more unique parts of the park is the Caesar’s Club on the third level, above the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.  We wound up spending the final two innings lounging in leather chairs, watching the SNY Encore of Saturday’s game.  You read that correctly: leather chairs. Granted, I’m no furniture expert.  They very well could be faux-leather.  But who has faux-leather chairs (not to mention plush couches) at a ballpark?  I typically love making fun of non-fans that need non-baseball entertainment at a baseball game, but the Caesar’s Club is actually a very nice addition, one that I’m sure I’ll frequent during the less-clement days.

We didn’t spend too much time in our seats.  But the little time we did spend there reassured me.  I was worried that our sight lineswould be worse (we were moved a little bit down the third base line), but there wasn’t much difference.  Add in the fact that the seats are bigger and angled toward the mound and the view isn’t bad at all.  Of course, people will continue to stand at the bottom of the stairs, mindlessly blocking the entire section’s view while they make faux-gangsta poses and peace signs for their FaceBook photos.  But I not-so-secretly love booing these morons, so I’m not that upset by it.

Some notable sightings: Cow-Bell-Man (or Cowbell Man, not really sure what the proper spelling is) was in attendance, wandering the park, posing for pictures, and letting pretty women and young kids bang the bell.  We must have crossed paths with him a dozen times.  He really has created a niche for himself, which is a little crazy when you really think about it.  I mean, complete strangers pose for photos with this man because he rhythmically bangs a cowbell!  But you have to love him for it, too.  And for those of you familiar with the upper deck, the Strike Out Guy was in attendance along with his friends.  Not sure if he has a proper nickname, we just call him that for his distinctive “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…struck…him…ouuuuut!” calls after a Mets pitcher records a strikeout.  We didn’t stick around to see if he was in mid-season form, but it was good to see him nonetheless.

As for the game itself, you may have gathered that I didn’t see much of it.  And you’d be right.  John Franco threw the first pitch and bouncedit.  That seemed fitting enough.  And Sean Lamont from Georgetown had the honor of hitting the first home run.  Somewhat bizarrely, the Hoyas were the home team today (apparently they gave up a home game to play at Citi).  They correctly opted not to raise the Home Run Apple, so we’ll have to wait to until the Mets arrive to see it displayed.  And that is the sum of my knowledge about the actual game.  

Though the game was nothing but a footnote to the debut of Citi Field, it filled that function perfectly.  We didn’t have to analyze the game or worry about the Mets’ performances.  Today’s star was the park, and Citi Field had a wonderful debut.  I entered with mixed feelings and left more excited for the season than ever.

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Citi Field – An Emotional Rollercoaster

Posted by JD on March 29, 2009

Sunday, March 29 brings the Big East to Citi Field as St. John’s faces off against Georgetown. This is, of course, the opening event at the new home of the Mets. But it also a time to reflect on just how we got here.

For the record, I was very reluctant to replace Shea Stadium. Having visited many new stadiums, particularly Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, I knew just how accessible and fan-friendly the new stadiums can be.  But even though Shea had its many faults I wasn’t ready to surrender its increasing uniqueness.  Shea became more and more unique as the cookie-cutter stadiums were replaced,. It became the third or fourth oldest stadium in the NL (depending on how you ranked RFK).  Sentimentally, I wanted to see Shea last for as long as possible.

Realistically, I knew Shea was due for replacement.  And though I’ve had my issues with the team’s ownership, I knew that as savvy businessmen who made their money in real estate they would do their best to create a fan-friendly environment that would maximize both their profits and the fans’ enjoyment of the game.  Surprisingly, I was blindsided by their original press releases.

In 2006, the NY Mets broke ground on a stadium that had approximately 12,000 fewer seats than Shea Stadium.  Sightlines would be improved and concourses would be less crowded, both good upgrades.  However, approximately 12,000 fellow fans would be denied the ability to attend games. Those that didn’t purchase season tickets would be subject to the whims of ticket brokers who most assuredly would. There are so many Mets fans that cannot attend 81 games for a variety of reasons (money, scheduling, etc). The new stadium’s size almost seemed as if it was deliberately designed to prevent these fans from attending more than a game or two a year.

And if that wasn’t enough, the city declared war on the surrounding neighborhood, with Mayor Bloomberg promising to invoke eminent domain laws to remove current tenants. Granted, the scrapyards are an eyesore and every fan would prefer the Wrigley Field experience: exit the stadium to a cozy neighborhood surrounded by bars and restaurants. But the scrapyards are legitimate businesses, entrepeneurs who have operated for years without the basic infrastructure that other neighborhoods take for granted.  These businesses turned a profit and, for the most part, paid their taxes.  And now they were being turned out just so the Wilpons could have a fancier stadium that would exclude a decent portion of their fan-base? It all left a bad taste in my mouth.

Gradually, I warmed to the thought of the new stadium. As an upper deck season ticket holder, I relished the idea of finding a standing-room-only spot somewhere on the field level to watch the final innings. I knew that certain spots in the new stadium would eventually become meeting points and I looked forward to participating.  But I could not come to grips with the simplest issue: the name.

I’m all for private businesses maximizing their returns.  My inner capitalist was on-board with the $400 million deal the Mets signed with Citibank.  But my inner taxpayer was upset that the land that they built their new stadium on was originally taxpayer land and, though self-financed, the bonds that will pay for this new stadium received tax-free status.  Add-in the the design replicating the facade of Ebbetts Field and subtract the Wilpon’s seeming disregard for Mets and Giants history, and the result was my disenchantment with the new stadium. 

Interestingly, the final game at Shea Stadium proved to be a bit of a turning point in my relationship with Citi Field.  I spent the final weeks of the season going to Shea as much as my schedule would allow and I found that it became easier to say goodbye to Shea.  Much to my surprise, ownership did a great job of saluting Mets history.  The attention given to the team, the stadium, and their combined history thawed my resistance and the final scene from Shea was perfect: the Franchise and the greatest position player in team history walking out of Shea, towards Citi, and closing the door behind them. 

I would’ve preferred to see the Mets make the postseason (who wouldn’t?), but the fact that they missed out by losing the final game at Shea made it that much more poignent. After the Mets lost, several thousand people left the building.  The departure of those fairweather fans made the setting that much more intimate for me.  To clarify, I started regularly attending games at Shea in the early 90’s, so seeing empty swaths of seats actually increased my feelings of nostalgia.  Though I would’ve rather seen the Mets win that day, it seemed perfectly fitting to close Shea on a losing note, and the missing fairweather fans only increased my connection to the team and the stadium.

I became determined not to miss Citi Field’s opening and luckily I was able to snag two tickets to the St. John’s/Georgetown game.  I have not been to Willets Point since November, so I was thankful to read Mets Grrl’s Citi Field preview http://metsgrrl.com/index.php/site/comments/the-metsgrrl-citi-field-preview/ and Matt Cerrone’s observations (of www.metsblog.com, as if you didn’t know).  Their enthusiasm for the new building is contagious and I’m excited to visit Citi Field tomorrow.

It’s been an up-and-down experience since 2006. Now, on the evening before the debut of Citi Field, I can finally say that I’m at piece with the decision to replace Shea and excited to see the new home of the Mets.

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Welcome to Section 518!

Posted by JD on March 26, 2009

This is a blog about the New York Mets and other relevant (or not) topics. The title refers to the location of the blog’s seats high above the third base line in the upper deck of New Shea Stadium.  Our goal: to document game observations, critiques, and criticisms as well as general thoughts about the Mets. As time goes on, Section 424 and Section 403 will fill the same niche for the NY Rangers and the NY Knicks, respectively. For now we hope you participate in and enjoy the conversation here.

We hope to augment the already-robust NY Mets blogo-nets (and eventually the Rangers’ and Knicks’ as well). As a fervent reader of existing Mets blogs, this blog will link to sites such as http://www.metsblog.com/,http://theropolitans.com/, http://www.metsgrrl.com/,http://www.metsgeek.com/, and others. There’s nothing this blog can do that they can’t do better. Each are worthy of the maximum amount of page-views you can muster and this blog will repeat that theme as often as possible. That being said, we certainly intend to make this blog as interesting as possible and hope you come back early and often.

Thanks in advance for reading, and we hope you enjoy.

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