Sunday, January 22, 2006

What I Want to See in the New Mets' New Ballpark

I’m a stadium junkie.

It’s true. I love everything about them. One of my best days ever was when we had total access, roof to clubhouse, of Tiger Stadium while crews were getting it ready for opening day one year.

I try to visit a new park every year, and I have to get there as soon as the gates open to explore every view and concession stand.

So naturally I’m already obsessing over the new Mets ballpark. This is the important time, when the powers at be are busy plotting.

Now’s the time to play stadium designer. The friends at Faith and Fear in Flushing and The Eddie Kranepool Society took a shot at this and had some great ideas.

I’m going to look at things a little differently. I’ve been fortunate enough check out games at a number of stadiums — old and new — around baseball, and here are some of the features I’ve seen elsewhere and would like see considered for the Mets’ new playground.

Details are coming out slowly. We know about red brick and an entrance that will recall Ebbets Field. I’m OK with that as long as its a starting point. While it is important to pay homage to history, we have to continue creating history on our own.

Views: What you see beyond the field is important, which is one of the reasons the donut stadiums were so reviled. Instead of a great city view, they give fans a panorama of usually empty seats.

Shea, had it faced in any other direction, would have had a much better view than what we have now, which is a not especially nice section of Queens.

Realize, of course, that tradition called for most stadiums to face the same way to deal with the sun and shadows when such things were issues for most of the games. And we know that change comes at a glacial pace in the Grand Old Game. But now stadiums face in all directions, so we are free to wonder.

If the New Shea — I know it will have a different name — faces north, we have a view of the water, which is a little further than McCovey Cove but still a short walk. Another direction and the Manhattan skyline rises in the distance. Other options are listed in other sections.

The Liberty Bell bongs every time a Phillie hits a bomb.

A Local Icon: The Phillies did an OK job of highlighting the Liberty Bell, which is done up in massive neon and "rings" when a Phillies player hits a homer.

New Yorkers, of course, have many icons to celebrate. No other city can compete. Yet we downplay this natural advantage. I offer: The Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty roots for the Mets.

C’mon! You know Lady Liberty’s a Mets fan. You think the Yankees want any part of your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free in their snooty ballpark? Heck no.

We need to claim Miss Liberty as a Met the way the Rangers have with their alternative sweaters. We need some kind of presence. Perhaps something like Kiss did here on its revenge tour, having her peering over the right field wall, torch glowing brightly and serving as a warning beacon for the planes heading into LaGuardia.

If Kiss can pull it off, so can the Mets!

And while we’re at it, let’s make the food court look like Times Square, at least the mall-like version in recent years. And make sure they serve bagels. Lots of poppy seed bagels.

Pittsburgh has a nice little bridge beyond the fence. We have the mighty Whitestone.

Bridges: Pittsburgh did a fine job of facing their stadium to include the view of bridges. It looks cool -- if you like little bridges. We, on the other hand, have big-ass world-class bridges. And some are not too far from the stadium, like the Whitestone, easily viewed in the distance if the yard is facing the right way.

Landmark in view: The Cardinals have the Arch looming overhead. We have the Unisphere. If we’re not going to set our view on Manhattan or the bridges, I suggest facing south. Heck, build the stadium in Flushing Meadows Park so the symbol of the 1964 fair is a Carlos Delgado blast away. It’s not like there’s a lot of stuff in that park anyway. The Mets are forever linked with the fair, so go all the way. And I have to say that incorporating the Parachute Jump at Keyspan Park was brilliant.

A sign: Every time I’ve been to Wrigley Field, I’ve seen people posing with that red sign, even where there’s no game going on. It’s a perfect snapshot that tells where you are and what you’re doing, and is at a nice, posable height. We have the signs, but they’re spread out over a long space or way up high. Put a nice, colorful sign somewhere low and have an employee standing there offering to take photos for people.

Statues: Speaking of photos, we need some statues. Teams are all over the place on this. The Cards do a lot of things well, but they dropped the ball in this area, with one large statue of Stan Musial and a whole series of small sculptures of Bob Gibson and the gang. The Tigers have lots of statues, but they’re placed in a spot that makes them hard to pose with unless you want to be photographed with Willie Horton’s butt, which you do not.

We can get this right. Tom Seaver is an obvious choice, as is Mike Piazza once he’s got his plaque in Cooperstown with a Mets cap. Honoring Gil Hodges would be great. I wouldn’t object to Willie Mays, and you can check out the Brewers’ Hank Aaron statue for precedence.

Now for the bold pick: Jackie Robinson. The Mets have become the defacto preservers of the Robinson story even though he’s a Dodger. Where was the national celebration of the 50th anniversary? At Shea.

Greg Luzinski is on display at Cit Bank

Old Guys: One of the best features of Citizens Bank Park was Greg Luzinski. It’s true! He runs "Bull's Barbecue" and hangs out posing for photos, telling stories about playing with Tom Seaver and just being a nice guy. Think of the possibilities for us! Rusty used to run a restaurant. How about "Mexican Food with Mex?" "Kranepool’s Kitchen?" "Grote’s Grill?" "Bagels with Benny Agbayani"

The Pirates salute both recent and ancient history at PNC Park.

History: The Mets have a colorful history. And while I hear they’ve become better at celebrating it, they can still do a lot more. A museum and Hall of Fame that the average fan can actually see are a must. The Pirates have some great touches at PNC Park, such as banners decorated with baseball cards from all eras. Very cool.


G-Fafif said...

Shoot, I'm ready for Opening Day 2009. Great concepts.

One thing, though. Rusty no longer runs a restaurant. High rent forced him from one location and he sold the other a few years ago. Shame, really. They were great ribs. There was, for the briefest of times in 1995, maybe 1996, a Rusty's barbecue stand at Shea. It was kind of hidden away.

Imagine hiding Rusty Staub.
Imagine being able to hide Rusty Staub.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Poor Rusty! We ate at the Fifth Ave. restaurant once back when we were first married and didn't realize it was one of those high-end places where you have to order the salad separately. A little expensive for us at the time. We ate a lot of bread waiting for that meal. Another time we walked through the building -- the Mets Clubhouse Shop was located there and the restaurant was visable through the lobby. We saw Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling dining with some young ladies in a corner table, then actually ran into Rusty outside on the sidewalk. Pretty cool.

Joe said...

One of my favorites is the Great American Ballpark in Cincy. Lots of people bash it for many reasons (not close enough to the Ohio River, too close to Kentucky, terribly ugly fans, etc. etc.) but the beauty of the design is in it's simplicity. When I'm there I feel like I'm in an overgrown schoolyard sandlot. Plus they have the best hotdog I've ever tasted there and a few amazing mosaics. The fans though are the only thing that ruin it for me. I never cease to run into incredibly rude fans who try to steal my seat or accuse me of stealing their seats.

Tony Hartsfield said...

You'll have to come see the new Busch Stadium this summer.

Tony Hartsfield said...

That was an invitation, by the way

deezofeezo said...

The Greatest stadium acoutrement of all time has to be Bernie Brewer sliding down the beer slide into a barrel of suds...No stadium can touch this.

Maybe Mr. Met can slide into a martini glass after every homerun, now that would be classy!

Cleveland has the old guy angle covered with John Adams...more famously known as the guy who sits in the centerfield bleachers and beats the tom tom's when the Tribe is on the warpath.

John said...

Hey Dave, off the subject here. I was wondering what you thought about Remlinger going back to the Braves. After reading your posts about Met players leaving to other teams and or coming back to the team. And the curse for leaving the team. Would the same apply to other teams?

John said...

Heh, P.S. Just wanted to pick at your brain.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...


The curse only applies to the Evil Empire. The Braves aren't evil, they're just annoying. Except for Chipper Jones. He's a punk.

John said...

Ha hah, thanks Dave. I agree with you on Chipper. Although he is a tough competitor when it comes to batting.

mr. met said...

"New Yorkers, of course, have many icons to celebrate. No other city can compete. Yet we downplay this natural advantage. I offer: The Statue of Liberty."

Too bad it's in Jersey. Of course, we'll share though. You just have to ask nicely and let us sleep with your sister.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Mr. Met,

Truth be told, when I brought the kids to see my homeland two years ago, we stayed in Jersey City and visited Lady Liberty from the park in Jersey, and was impressed at how close it was and how easy it was to board the ferry from that side!

Tony Hartsfield said...

You know, I still use the "Which exit?" line whenever I meet someone from Jersey.