It’s hard to miss Shea Stadium. Sure, standing in the parking lot with the new bronze markers of the home plate, the bases, and the “pitcher’s plate” (who calls it that?) can bring back a rush of memories. A few hundred yards away, the stadium that surrounds the new “pitcher’s plate” is an incredible upgrade over the old Shea. But the new Shea, Citi Field, is not quite perfect. One only needs to look west for two examples of teams that, as they say, got it right.
The Mets squandered the chance to build the best stadium on the planet by choosing to stay in Flushing. With the abundance of waterfront property in Long Island City a few years ago, a stadium overlooking the East River and the Midtown skyline could have been a reality. In a city where prime views come at the highest of prices, (see New York’s unique practice of selling “air rights”) it’s hard to believe this did not happen.
One only needs to look at Pittsburgh and San Francisco to see prime examples of what the view can do for a stadium. In Pittsburgh, the city’s compact yet impressive skyline feels like an extension of PNC Park. Add in the gorgeous yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge spanning the Allegheny, and the tri-annual tradition of “Skyblast,” when fireworks are launched from the bridge and skyscrapers, and you have one of the finest facilities anywhere, even if home team is terrible. The food selections are also amazing, and seats behind the dugout can be had for $32 – any game, any time. They got it right.
In San Francisco, a seat in the upper deck of AT&T Park will make you feel like you’re floating in San Francisco Bay. There’s a reason they call it the “view level.” The glittering Bay Bridge past left field only adds to the ambience. And you don’t even have to pay to watch a game here – the Giants will let you stand behind the outfield fence, for free, for 3 innings of any game, space permitting. They got it right.
Back to Citi Field. The food is tastier, the seats are slightly wider, the twisting ramps are gone, and the staff has undergone an extreme makeover in customer service. But it shouldn’t be in Flushing. It should be in Western Queens, already a vibrant neighborhood home to bars, restaurants, and residential spaces. Both Pittsburgh and San Francisco’s stadiums exist in those kinds of communities – there’s not a muffler shop in sight.
If you’re ever craving for such a view in Queens, check out the seats around section 506 at Citi Field. In the small opening between the left field stands and the hulking scoreboard, you can see Flushing Bay and the Whitestone Bridge. Not quite right, but it will have to do. Let’s go Mets!
- Who do you think got it right? The Mets or the Yankees?