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Neyer: Citi Field the pinnacle of The Commercial Era of ballpark construction

Jul 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT

Citi Field

Rob Neyer has thought hard about the various eras of ballpark construction. In today’s column he identifies The Utilitarian Era (think all of those long-gone parks of the 19th century); The Classic Era (Fenway, Wrigley); The Multipurpose Era (The Vet, Three Rivers) and The NeoClassical Era (think Camden Yards).

Bet you think that’s all the eras there are. Nope. Rob identifies a new, post-2008 era he dubs The Commercial Era, which he describes as ballparks built with something other than watching baseball as the primary purpose. And after spending a few days at Citi Field he has identified it as the quintessentially Commercial ballpark:

Citi Field isn’t a terrible place. But like the new Yankee Stadium, it could have been so much more. Considering how much money was spent, and the grand tradition of public architecture in New York, it should have been so much more. But this, I’m sorry to say, is where we’re at. Baseball stadiums are no longer palaces for the fans. They have become palaces for people who live in palaces, and places from which to hang garish billboards.

I’m not as down on Citi Field as Rob is. But his observations — specifically about the particular angles at which the billboards are placed — do make a pretty compelling case that the place is not a monetized baseball park but a baseball-ized cash machine.

Not that you can’t enjoy a ballgame in the joint. I enjoyed a couple of them there. But it is weird to see architecture that is not only an example of form following function but fundamentally altering function too.

  1. caeser12 - Jul 18, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    You mean the “Mall presently known as Yankee Stadium.”

    *Disclaimer: Yanks fan since 1967.

    • jimbo75025 - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:18 PM

      Amen to that. Does anything think that the present reincarnation of Yankee Stadium will be usable for 80+ years like the old one? Anyone? Anyone?

      • caeser12 - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:29 PM

        I concur 1000% jimbo. They’ll be building a new Yankee Stadium around 2026.

  2. sdelmonte - Jul 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    I think Citi is pretty neat place. It is perfect? No. But it’s a good place to watch a game, from any angle. And as for the ads, I ignore them.

    And frankly, I don’t mind the owners trying to make money in any way they can. That’s what they always do. What I mind is that they can’t make enough money to pay off the debt service on the new park. Though better them than us. (From what I know, the bill to the public was fairly low on this park.)

    I will add, though, that I also loved Shea Stadium. Sometimes, home is the place your heart is, even if it’s not the place your architect is.

    • kopy - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Agree 100%. As a neutral observer who’s visited both parks, I felt Citi was the better facility to watch a baseball game with better layouts and better sightlines. It just happens that the other park has the history and better team.

    • rcdck - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      Citi is fine, but it’s not a good place to watch a game from any angle. Sections 532-8 have significantly hampered views, much more so than the outfield upper deck in nearly any other ballpark. Sitting up there, you cannot see the vast majority of left field, including the left fielder when he is playing any deeper than usual.

  3. heyblueyoustink - Jul 18, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    Folks with money, be damned how the came to have it, now responsible for sullying the baseball experience.

    Add that to the list.

  4. chunkala - Jul 18, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    ^^^ NYY should have played in Shea for a few years while the old Stadium was completely renovated (the right way this time, not like 1973.

  5. dowhatifeellike - Jul 18, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    As a fan of an AL team… I didn’t even know they had a new stadium: I thought they just changed names and removed the stupid home run apple thing. Citi is wholly bland.

  6. jayscarpa - Jul 18, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    The only park I’ve disliked is the Kingdome.

  7. bigred12 - Jul 18, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    Things should be a little better next year at Target Field (even though it has a commercial name). Or maybe I’m just partial because I grew up watching games in the inflatable toilet (aka the Metrodome).

    • kopy - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Things will be a lot better at Target Field. It’s mostly just the ad space that’s used to cover up the parking garage (and stop people from trying to watch the game from the garage) and the Sanford Health sign that the Twins tried to prevent. I like Citi Field, but the ads there get nauseating.

      Note:

  8. maxabrams1704 - Jul 18, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    I’ve felt the same way about ATT Park in San Fran for a while. Beautiful location? Check. Great sight lines? Check. Giant coke bottle and a general feeling that you’re in a mall? Oooooo ya. Feel the same way when I went to Citi. Not horrible parks, but not great either

    • rje49 - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      A prize to anybody who actually knows which team plays at every one of those commercially named parks.

  9. Reflex - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    I’m a big fan of Safeco Field. My fav park so far, but then I haven’t visited San Fran yet which I hear is the best. And I hear Colorado, Pittsburg and St Louis have great parks now, will have to check them out next time I do a road trip.

    • umrguy42 - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:07 AM

      Well, I’m a totally biased homer, but I do like Busch Stadium (III) in St. Louis. I dunno if it’s quite the “neo-classical” look, but being a little more open, and having that great view out of center at the Arch and skyline is pretty cool.

      Busch II on the other hand, totally a cookie-cutter example of the Multi-purpose era. (Although, to some extent I occasionally have little bits of nostalgia for it. Took in a number of games there, only been able to make one at Busch III.)

  10. steelers88 - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    Citi field is okay stadium but I never really liked it. It’s to much of a pitchers ballpark.

  11. jayscarpa - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    Advertising/commercialism and baseball have gone hand in hand for longer than any of us have been alive – ever see pictures of the OF wall at Ebbets Field?
    Watching a game is so much more comfortable now. I can ignore the Hard Rock and Pepsi Porch and things like that.

    • gloccamorra - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:26 PM

      Funny you mention Ebbets Field, former home of the Dodgers. When Walter O’Malley was rebuffed on his plan to build a new park in Brooklyn (the city offered swamp land in Queens – or nothing) he was determined to build Dodger Stadium with no razor blades or beer ads on the walls. He accepted the Union Oil ad and gas station in the parking lot because they helped pay for the ballpark. I wonder how long the new Dodgers’ owners keep the stadium nearly ad-free?

  12. steelers88 - Jul 18, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    I like PNC park the best I know I might be biased but with the skyline and the smallness of the stadium your pretty close to the action.

    • ptfu - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      PNC is a jewel of a park. Everyone who hasn’t been yet, go. And this is coming from someone who isn’t a Pirates fan.

  13. ochospantalones - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    Citi Field is a nice place to watch a game. it is not as good as the modern classics, but it is pleasant. It’s a bit too big, the original color scheme was a bit jarring, and it feels like something of an architectural mish-mash. The ads I can tune out. They have pretty good food and beer options available to the masses. Everything is expensive, but welcome to New York. The real disgrace is Yankee Stadium. Sitting in the upper deck there, you may as well be in one of the old multi-purpose stadiums.

  14. ironcitydonnieiris - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    I take pops to a new stadium every year as a Father’s Day gift. Went to Citi 2 years ago. Sat in left field. Good seats. Even some Buccos fans there in our section. We both agreed Citi was better than last years visit to Toronto. This year is either Jacobs field or Cinci. Hoping next year will be a west coast super Father’s Day gift. SD, LA, Anehiem, and maybe SF and SEA. not many stadiums left for the old man to see.
    The first trip was a surprise. Told him to drive down to Baltimore where I was living. Told him to bring a camera. We drove to the airport at 530 am. He was upset that he didn’t pack a bag. I said don’t worry. We boarded a flight for Chicago. He still had no clue what was going on. We took the L to Wrigley. We got off the L and he knew. He was in tears over the gift. We watched the game (cubbies beat the D-backs), had dinner downtown and caught the 930 flight back to Baltimore. He still talks about it to his friends. “It was like flying to Paris for dinner” he says.
    Sad thing now is that he knows we are going to a ball game. But Wriggly was a great choice to start it off.
    Citi is near the top of our experiences more so because of the entire trip than just the game experience.

  15. steelers88 - Jul 18, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    My opinion is that the stadiums built from 1992-2009 are pretty fantastic stadiums but the stadiums built from 2009-to the present aren’t that great. When I go to the stadium I want to feel like I’m at an actual stadium watching baseball and when I think of Citi Field and Yankee Stadium they don’t seem like stadiums they seem more like a big shopping mall.

  16. Reggie's Bush - Jul 18, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    Every stadium has ads – esp during an all-star game, I just feel like the Mets are an easy target.

    Citi is like 900% better for fans then Shea – if I buy $15 promenade seats I never go up just roam around and I’m able to see the game from the Shea bridge to the 3rd base line or anywhere. Sight lines are all around the field even with cup holders and tables. The suites are awesome and I did the party city deck which is so close to the action and includes unlimited beer (even until the 9th inning!!!) and food.

    Cheapest pro sporting event in NY (except maybe some hockey games)

    • thebadguyswon - Jul 19, 2013 at 7:15 AM

      Citi Field is gorgeous. In reality, Citi Field is a very nice place to watch a game. But the team has stunk for half a decade and the Mets are an easy target, especially for hacks like Rob Neyer, who’s next insightful piece on baseball will be his first. The biggest downsite to Citi is Willet’s Point. Hopefully the planned development happens and it turns that area around.

  17. moonlandingwasfaked - Jul 18, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    Nothing will beat the good ol’ Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. $7.00 outfield cheap seats?! You couldn’t beat that. The three years I lived in Minneapolis were the cheapest and best summers of my life – for baseball, anyway.

    • nolanwiffle - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:41 AM

      The place had a giant Hefty bag for a right field fence. Who pines for those days of yore?

  18. therealtrenches - Jul 19, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    Where does Citizen’s Bank Park fit into his historical scheme ?

    It’s gotta be either the last of the Neoclassics, or the first of the Commercial era parks.

  19. steelers88 - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    I have been to Citizens Bank Park and I would describe it as a classic ballpark it feels like your at an actual baseball stadium. I don’t know if it’s the fans but it has a great atmosphere. Citi field not so much.

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