New York City is known for museums, Central Park, the Empire State Building, great pizza, and a million other things.
It’s also known for great baseball, whether it’s at the gargantuan Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the Yankees, or at the humbler but still strikingly beautiful Citi Field in Queens and the New York Mets.
In Part 1 of this installment, I’ve shared some of the things that make Yankee Stadium a great Big Apple destination; this time around I’m going to share what makes Citi Field equally great.
While Yankee Stadium pays tribute to the greatness of the Yankees, Citi Field pays tribute to the greatness of baseball in general.
Citi Field, at the behest of owner and former Brooklyn Dodgers fan Fred Wilpon, was designed in many ways to look like Ebbets Field, the beloved home of the departed Dodgers. The ballpark has a red brick façade and the main entrance is a large rotunda. That rotunda is dedicated to one of baseball’s greatest heroes, Jackie Robinson.
Robinson was, of course, the first player to break the color barrier in baseball. But what is less known was his skill on the playing field and his integrity off of it. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda celebrates Robinson’s nine essential values as shared by his daughter Sharon: courage, integrity, determination, persistence, citizenship, justice, commitment, teamwork, and excellence. Throughout there are photos, quotes, and a large number 42 statue—Robinson’s number, which has since been retired by all of Major League Baseball. People wait in line to be photographed next to the 42 statue.
The tributes to a famous Dodger and to the Dodgers’ former ballpark were of some irritation to Mets fans, who openly pondered why their new ballpark was designed to pay tribute to a team that unceremoniously left town for Los Angeles, while at the same time practically ignoring the team that calls the new ballpark home.
The ownership of the Mets heard the complaints…today there is a Mets Hall of Fame and Museum next to the Rotunda, with plaques of Met greats like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gil Hodges; uniforms worn by champion players like Gary Carter; and the World Series trophies of 1969 and 1986. The Ebbets Club has been renamed to the Champions Club, with wings dedicated to the 1969 and 1986 Mets teams. The gates have been adorned with sculptures of great Mets moments, like Ron Swoboda’s incredible catch to save a game in the 1969 World Series. Most striking of all, the formerly black outfield fence has been repainted Mets blue and orange. (Incidentally, the Mets colors are dedicated to the two National League teams that left town—blue for the Dodgers and orange for the Giants.)
Overall Citi Field pays homage to some of the best of baseball’s past, and is a fine place to see a ballgame to boot. The ballpark features dark green seats, several restaurants like McFadden’s and the Acela Club, great sightlines, two hi-def scoreboards, and seating for folks from every level of the economic spectrum—from the Delta Sky360 Club seats behind home plate to the Pepsi Porch seats on the mezzanine level in right field.
The food at Citi, though, is anything but classic hot dogs—although Nathan’s provides them for purists. Citi Field has an extremely diversified and…dare we say it…gourmet level menu that is a long way from anything that was likely served at Ebbets Field. The Shake Shack and its Shackburger is the most popular joint in the place (and draws lines to prove it), but you have several local brand name cuisines to choose from…Cascarino’s Pizza, Mama’s of Corona deli sandwiches, Blue Smoke BBQ, or Brooklyn Burgers. There’s even a grill named for Mets great Keith Hernandez, if you’re looking for a different kind of burger.
However you choose to enjoy the game, Citi Field provides a dazzling experience of modern baseball with a more than gracious nod to both the team’s and baseball’s past.
If You Go…
Despite the Mets’ unexpected success this season, most games don’t sell out, and you should be able to buy tickets on the Mets website, or on StubHub where you can often find ticket bargains for low demand opponents like the Brewers or Nationals. The Mets have a complicated ticket pricing system, so be sure to have several games to choose from so that you have better opportunities to find bargains.
Citi Field has ample parking, but like with Yankee Stadium, it is far preferable to use public transportation to avoid traffic and the parking fees (which, while not as absurd as Yankee Stadium’s, is still fairly high). The ballpark is located next to the Mets-Willets Point station of the venerable 7 train from Times Square in Manhattan, which is the most popular route for most Mets fans to get there, so arrive early. The 7 runs “Mets Express” trains before and after games, marked by a red diamond on the side. Try to use this train if you can, which skips about ten stops coming from Manhattan on a train route that is fairly slow.
Citi Field is also located near the Mets-Willets Point station of the Long Island Railroad, a more expensive but much faster and more comfortable train coming from Long Island and Penn Station in Manhattan. Keep in mind that the LIRR does not stop at Mets-Willets Point except on game days, so you won’t be able to use it just to visit the ballpark for a tour or tickets.
Finally, there isn’t anything in the immediate area of Citi Field as far as pre- or post-game taverns, so you’re best off simply heading back into Manhattan if you’re looking for a party.
Kurt Smith is the author of Ballpark E-Guides, PDF-format guides to 14 major league ballparks, including Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Camden Yards. Ballpark E-Guides provide detailed information and tips for buying tickets, finding a great seat, getting to the ballpark and what to eat when you’re there, with “Tightwad Tips” to help readers save money on all of it. He is also a contributor to “Jersey Man” magazine, and occasionally posts to a blog about Wildwood, N.J., called “Beaches and Boards”. When he’s not busy with all of that, Kurt enjoys spending time with his family. Learn more at www.BallparkEGuides.com.