Monday, June 1, 2009

New Yankee Stadium vs. Citi Field Revisited

Upon our overly critical first trips to Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium in late March/early April, we gave the edge to Citi Field in terms of overall fan experience. Now that we are approaching our 10th visit to the new Yankee Stadium, we thought it was about time to take another trip to Citi Field. Last Monday, we took that trip. Surely, we wouldn't still like the new home of the Mets more than the home of our beloved Yankees, right?

We arrived early at Citi Field and were immediately annoyed by a rude security guard who denied us the right to watch batting practice from the "Pepsi Porch" seats (overhanging right field). From what we could tell, those were the only seats off-limits to non ticket holders during batting practice. It seems to be a curious decision (likely related to safety) but the security guard failed to convey a clear message. Instead, he demanded a ticket and told us if we didn't have a ticket for the Pepsi Porch, we would have to go to another section. Thanks for the quality information, buddy.

We eventually parked in some seats below the "Pepsi Porch," and once again became annoyed. This time, the root of the annoyance was the dimensions of Citi Field. The way that place is built, it is very hard for guys to hit the ball into the seats. As we have mentioned in the past, it is fun to try to snag a ball during batting practice. At Citi Field, you have the best opportunity in foul territory down the right field line, or in the lower deck in left, but even there, the balls hit out of play are few and far between. It is the exact opposite of the new Yankee Stadium in terms of balls flying out of the park, which means it is less fun.

Sure, we enjoyed an order of penne ala vodka for dinner and chocolate mousse for desert at Citi Field (wherein we lost our membership to the "guy" club, and the "half-Italian" club all in one feel swoop), but what we really wanted was a burger from Shake Shack. Unfortunately, even an hour and 20 minutes before game time, the line was so long that we wouldn't even consider waiting in it. Something needs to be done about those lines. Perhaps some sort of kiosk-based ordering system with a pick-up time? Waiting in a ridiculously long line is OK when hanging out in the friendly confines of Madison Square Park (home to the original Shake Shack), but when fans go to a baseball game, they are there to see the game, and not socialize while standing in line for a trendy burger place beyond the center field scoreboard.

On this trip to Citi Field, we noticed that there is no way to see the field from standing room areas directly behind home plate. At the new Yankee Stadium, you can do so on the field level (albeit with Shaq's shower curtain impeding some of the view), while the main level is blocked off due to the suites. At Citi Field, the view from behind home is blocked by members only clubs on both the field level and the next level up. As somewhat of a consolation, the closed-in corridor behind home plate on the field level at Citi is home to their very own bootleg version of Dippin' Dots, called "Mollicoolz."

Luckily, well-known Dippin' Dots critic Bobby was on hand, but he gave the thumbs down, and didn't even try them. The "coolest way to eat ice cream" line didn't even come close to the "ice cream of the future" tag line that Dippin' Dots owns. Plus, what the hell does "Mollicoolz" even mean? That is just a bunch of letters thrown together to make a word. Even with the Yankees ditching Dippin' Dots, we weren't inspired to get our fix of those ice cream pellets.

For whatever reason, the Mets have removed the counter tops from the standing room only areas, and have replaced them with metal bars that have cup holders attached to them. This is likely their next step toward being able to sell tickets for those spots, but why install counter tops for those locations and then remove them? That was one of our favorite features of Citi Field during our first trip there. Still, the bar with cup holders is one step above what they have for the standing room areas at Yankee Stadium, which is nothing. We'd wager a good amount of money that Citi Field will sell standing room only tickets before the Yankees do.

Speaking of Standing room only locations, we are able to provide a couple of photos to compare and contrast the view from very similar spots on the field level of Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium.

In a close battle, we'll give the edge to that spot in the new Yankee Stadium, because you are closer to the action. We'll have much more about our favorite standing room spots in the new Yankee Stadium during the upcoming home stand, so stay tuned for that.

Citi Field still won over our hearts in a couple of areas. If you aren't sitting in obstructed view seats in the upper deck of Citi Field, the upper deck is a joy. The Mets built the upper deck the right way, and you feel extremely close to the action without feeling like you are too high in the air. It definitely will remind you more of the upper deck in the old Yankee Stadium than the upper deck the Yankees have built at their new home.

Next, although we have let the Yankees off the hook for it up to this point, it is time to address the poor flow of the new Yankee Stadium in general, and specifically point at the way concession stand lines are formed. At Citi Field, they do things the right way - using ropes to snake the line, thus giving fans more room to walk by:

Please excuse the ghost in the crappy camera phone photo (Mystique - what the HELL are you doing at Citi Field?!)

Unfortunately, it is two months into the season, and operations folks at the new Yankee Stadium have yet to figure out this basic concept of line snaking. As you can tell by the below photo, pandemonium generally ensues.

Also on the good side for Citi Field, they have instituted their designated driver program, while the Yankees still have not. At the old Yankee Stadium, there was a concession stand set up on the lower level where fans could sign up to be a designated driver, meaning they would wear a wrist band, and opt not to consume alcohol. Many people who didn't drink would sign up for this, and it was a way to get free soda. At the old Yankee Stadium, the soda was unlimited, because it was a concession stand with one person who filled up cups of soda. While nothing like this has opened at the new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field has a stand set up in the upper deck, behind home plate. If you sign up to be a designated driver (you must provide your driver's license number, name, and phone number), you will be given a write band, and a voucher for one free 16 oz. drink at any concession stand. While it isn't as good as the unlimited free soda at the old Yankee Stadium, it definitely beats the non-existent designated driver program at the new one.

If you are a baseball traditionalist adverse to modern "mall parks," the area behind the video board in center is a nightmare at Citi Field. Aside from the EA Sports sponsored batting cages, wiffle ball field, dunk tank, and video game area, there is a Verizon Wireless "booth" featuring a living room setup with a huge television, and stations promoting all of their new phones. We're wondering why they didn't just make it a fully functioning Verizon store, giving fans the opportunity to sign up for plans and pay their bills. At least then it would have had some function, aside from being a distraction from the game on the field.

Perhaps going in with a pro-Yankees mindset skewed our perception, but after our latest trip to Citi Field in Flushing, we feel that it is at least toss-up between the two new stadiums - with Yankee Stadium possibly getting the nod. Sure, Citi Field has more of an intimate feel, and the upper deck is closer to the action. However, the upper deck at Citi Field is more riddled with self-inflicted obstructed views, and the entire stadium isn't as expansive of a structure to explore. Plus, the $12 bleachers at Yankee Stadium are the best value at either stadium. Food and beer options are generally better at Citi Field, but as long as we have some surprisingly good Budweiser American Ale with our delicious Lobel's Steak sandwich, we are fine.

This Yankee Stadium vs. Citi Field debate will surely go on for years to come, and thats a good thing. Gone are the days when you have to dread that trip out to Flushing to accompany a friend to a baseball game at the home of the Mets. Citi Field more than holds its own, but even with all of the problems that we have complained about, our new favorite is the big ball park in the Bronx.
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