Citi Field is a stadium located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in the New York City borough of Queens. Completed in 2009, it is the home baseball park of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets. Citi Field was built as a replacement for the adjacent Shea Stadium, which was constructed in 1964 next to the site of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. Citi Field was designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport), and is named after Citigroup, a financial services company based in New York that purchased the naming rights. The $850 million baseball park is being funded by the sale of New York City municipal bonds which are to be repaid by the Mets plus interest. The payments will offset property taxes for the lifetime of the park.
The first game at the ballpark took place on March 29, 2009, with a college baseball game between St. John’s Red Storm and the Georgetown Hoyas. The Mets played their first two games at the ballpark on April 3 and April 4, 2009 against the Boston Red Sox as charity exhibition games. The first regular season home game was played on April 13, 2009, against the San Diego Padres. The Mets are considered likely to win the rights to host the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Citi Field, which would bring the game to the Mets’ home field for only the second time; the first was at Shea in its 1964 inaugural season.
Shortly before leaving office in December 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced “tentative agreements” for both the Mets and New York Yankees to build new stadiums. Of $1.6 billion sought for the stadiums, city and state taxpayers would pick up half the tab for construction, $800 million, along with $390 million on extra transportation. The plan also said that the teams would be allowed to keep all parking revenues, which state officials had already said they wanted to keep to compensate the state for building new garages for the teams. The teams would keep 96% of ticket revenues and 100% of all other revenues, not pay sales tax or property tax on the stadium, and would get low-cost electricity from New York state. Business officials criticized the plan as giving too much money to successful teams with little reason to move to a different city.
Michael Bloomberg, who succeeded Giuliani as mayor, exercised the escape clause in the agreements to back out of both deals, saying that the city could not afford to build new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees. Bloomberg said that unbeknownst to him, Giuliani had inserted a clause in this deal which loosened the teams’ leases with the city and would allow the Mets and Yankees to leave the city on 60 days’ notice to find a new home elsewhere if the city backed out of the agreement. At the time, Bloomberg said that publicly funded stadiums were a poor investment. Under Bloomberg, the New York City government would only offer public financing for infrastructure improvements; the teams would have to pay for the stadium themselves. Bloomberg called the former mayor’s agreements “corporate welfare.” Giuliani had already been instrumental in the construction of taxpayer-funded minor league baseball facilities MCU Park for the Mets’ minor league Brooklyn Cyclones and Richmond County Bank Ballpark for the Staten Island Yankees.
The original plans for what is now Citi Field were created as part of the New York City 2012 Olympic bid. It was originally supposed to have a retractable roof. After plans for a West Side Stadium fell through, New York looked for an alternate stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies. The Olympic stadium project was estimated to cost $2.2 billion with $180 million provided by New York City and New York State. If New York had won the bid, the stadium would have been expanded to host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as other sporting events, while the Mets would have played at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx for the 2012 season.
The projected cost of the new ballpark and other infrastructure improvements is $610 million, with the Mets picking up $420 million of that amount. The agreement includes a 40-year lease that will keep the Mets in New York until 2049.
On March 18, 2006, the New York Mets unveiled the official model for the new ballpark. By July 2006, initial construction of the new park was underway in the parking lot beyond left-field, with a projected finish ahead of Opening Day 2009 in late March.
As of April 13, 2008, all of the structure for the Jackie Robinson Rotunda was in place with the arched windows receiving their paneling and glass. By August 2008, the New York Mets and Daktronics installed 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) of integrated scoring and video boards throughout the stadium. By September 2008, most of the Citi Field signage had been installed. By December 1, 2008, all of the seats and the playing field had been installed.
During the 2009-10 offseason, the bullpen area in right-center field is undergoing a complete renovation. In the 2009 season, the bullpens had been set up so that the Mets’ bullpen was in front of the visiting bullpen, leading to an obstructed view of the field from the visiting bullpen, which the San Diego Padres complained about during the Mets’ first regular-season home series. The bullpens will be turned 90 degrees, with pitchers throwing toward the field instead of across. More Mets team colors, player banners and logos are also being added throughout the ballpark. The height of the center field wall will be reduced from 16 feet to 8 feet.
The new ballpark has a capacity of 42,000 plus additional standing room, over 15,000 fewer seats than Shea Stadium. The exterior facade is reminiscent of Ebbets Field (which was long sought by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, a Brooklyn native).
Citi Field’s interior design is primarily influenced by PNC Park, which was the favorite ballpark of Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. Other influences include Great American Ball Park, Coors Field and Citizens Bank Park. Shea Stadium was the only ballpark in the Major Leagues to feature orange foul poles instead of the standard yellow, a unique characteristic that made its way into Citi Field.
Similar to Shea Stadium, Citi Field’s spacious field dimensions make it a pitcher friendly park. However unlike Shea’s symmetrical layout, Citi Field features several design quirks. While Shea’s outfield fence had a uniform height of 8 feet, Citi Field’s fence changes height several times, rising as high as 16 feet in left field and 18 feet in right field, which features a three sided notch that houses the Modell’s Clubhouse seating area.
During the first two games of a June series versus the Philadelphia Phillies, Chase Utley, the Phillies’ second baseman, hit three home runs, including a game winner, into the bulge near the right field foul pole. Later, at a June 26, 2009 game against the New York Yankees, Mets broadcaster, Gary Cohen, referred to the area as “Utley’s Corner”.
Delta Air Lines signed a multiyear deal on September 15, 2008, to sponsor an exclusive section in Citi Field. The Delta Sky360 Club is a 22,500-square-foot (2,090 m2) restaurant-cafe-bar-lounge complex that also houses 1,600 premium seats behind home plate stretching from dugout to dugout.
The Pepsi Porch is a 1,284 seat area located in right field which extends over the playing field, and is inspired by Tiger Stadium’s right field porch. A 37 foot by 89 foot Pepsi Cola sign, reminiscent of the one facing the Manhattan skyline in Long Island City, sits atop the Pepsi Porch.
Jackie Robinson Rotunda
The front entrance of Citi Field features a rotunda named after Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson and honors his life and accomplishments. Engraved into the rotunda’s 160-foot diameter floor and etched into the archways are words and larger-than-life images that defined Robinson’s nine values: Courage, Excellence, Persistence, Justice, Teamwork, Commitment, Citizenship, Determination and Integrity. Robinson’s famous quote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” is engraved into the upper ring of the rotunda. There is also an 8 foot sculpture of Robinson’s number 42.The formal dedication of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda was held as part of Major League Baseball’s official celebration of Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, 2009.
Home Run Apples
Another tradition from Shea Stadium making an appearance in Citi Field is the Home Run Apple. When a Mets player hits a home run, the giant apple, which has a Mets logo on the front that lights up, rises from its housing in the center field batter’s eye. The new apple that has been constructed for Citi Field is more than four times the size of the previous one and was designed by Minneapolis-based engineering firm Uni-Systems. Shea’s original apple is located inside Citi Field’s bullpen entrance gate.
Amenities and facilities
Behind the center field scoreboard is the 2K Sports FanFest area, an expanded family entertainment area that includes a miniature wiffleball field replica of Citi Field called Mr. Met’s Kiddie Field, a batting cage, a dunk tank, video game kiosks and other attractions.
The Mets Hall of Fame & Museum is currently under construction, and will be located adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
Citi Field offers a wide choice of eateries. Taste of the City is a food court located in the center field section of the ballpark. It is run by restaurateurs Danny Meyer and Dave Pasternack and includes a variety of stands, including Shake Shack (burgers, fries, shakes), Blue Smoke (barbecue), El Verano Taqueria (Mexican cuisine), Box Frites (Belgian french fries) and Catch of the Day (seafood).The World’s Fare Market is located on the field level and features sushi from Daruma of Tokyo and sandwiches and pastries from Mama’s of Corona. Citi Field also offers a choice of fresh fruit at several stands around the stadium.
Restaurants and clubs are also available in every level of the ballpark. The 350-seat Acela Club, located in left field on the Excelsior Level, is the dining highlight of the new park and features a full view of the playing field as well as food from Drew Nieporent’s Myriad Restaurant Group, renowned for Nobu and Tribeca Grill. Admission into the high-end luxury Acela and Delta clubs, and including the other semi-luxury clubs are exclusive to high-end ticket holders only, and some restaurants enforce that reservations be made. A McFadden’s Restaurant and Saloon is scheduled to open at Citi Field in 2010.
Despite the modern amenities, Citi Field has not been without criticism. Most notable have been fan complaints of obstructed views, as well as an overemphasis in the celebration of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ legacy over the history of the Mets. In response to these criticisms, the team installed photographic imagery of famous players and historic moments in Mets history on the Field and Promenade levels as well as the display of team championship banners on the left-field wall during the 2009 season. The team also worked on fixing the obstructed views in the Promenade level.
The New York Post reported that after less than a season Citi Field was in need of repairs. The stadium suffered water damage to several luxury suites as well as mold, falling signs and concrete, flooding in outfield seats, faulty electrical wiring and shoddy tile work. Mets VP David Howard acknowledged these problems, stating that they are minor and typical in new stadiums.
Access and transportation
Citi Field is located in the borough of Queens, adjacent to the neighborhoods of Corona, which lies to its west, and Willets Point and Flushing to the east. Flushing Bay is to the north, and the rest of Flushing Meadows–Corona Park is to the south. Because it lies within the Flushing postal zone, and because of its location in Flushing Meadows-
Citi Field is reachable via mass transit systems such as the New York City Subway using the 7 train at the Mets–Willets Point station, and the Long Island Rail Road station also called Mets–Willets Point. For selected games, SeaStreak provides ferry service between Highlands, New Jersey and the World’s Fair Marina, located approximately a quarter of a mile north of Citi Field. The park is also close to several major thoroughfares, including the Grand Central Parkway, the Whitestone/Van Wyck Expressway, the Long Island Expressway, Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. Citi Field is adjacent to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the annual US Open grand-slam tennis tournament is held.
On November 13, 2006, it was officially announced that the ballpark would be called Citi Field, named for Citigroup Inc. Citigroup will be paying $20 million a year for the naming rights to the park over the next 20 years. This made Citi Field the second major league sports venue in the area named for a corporate sponsor, (after Continental Airlines Arena (now Izod Center) in the Meadowlands, but preceding Prudential Center in Newark and the proposed Barclays Center in Brooklyn), officially becoming the first in New York City itself, aside from two minor league ballparks (MCU Park in Brooklyn, and Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island). The deal includes an option on both sides to extend the contract to 40 years, and is the most expensive sports-stadium naming rights agreement ever, subsequently equaled by Barclays’ $400 million deal with the New Jersey Nets for their planned arena in Brooklyn.
At the groundbreaking for Citi Field, it was announced that the main entrance, modeled on the one in Brooklyn’s old Ebbets Field, will be called the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, possibly due to campaigns to forgo naming rights revenue and name the ballpark after Robinson. The Mets are spending more than $600 million for the new ballpark, which New York City and New York state are also supporting with a total of $165 million for such costs as infrastructure and site preparation. On February 24, 2008, the Mets and Citigroup unveiled the new Citi Field logo.
Controversy over naming rights
Both Citigroup and the Mets maintain that the naming rights deal is secure, despite Citigroup’s economic troubles. This deal has been criticized in light of the economic crisis of 2008-2009 and the $45 billion of taxpayer funds allocated to Citigroup by the U.S. federal government in two separate rescue packages, prompting New York City Council members Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo to suggest that the new ballpark be called “Citi/Taxpayer Field.”
Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who serves on the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, stated in regards to the Citi Field naming rights deal, “This type of spending is indefensible and unacceptable to Citigroup’s new partner and largest investor: the American taxpayer…. I strongly urge Citigroup to find a way out of this contract and instead spend that $400 million on retaining its employees and restoring confidence in its operations.” On January 29, 2009, congressmen Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Ted Poe of Texas sent a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner urging him to scrap Citigroup’s $400 million naming rights deal. “We request that you intervene and demand that Citigroup dissolve the agreement they have with the New York Mets,” reads the letter. “Absent this outcome, we feel strongly that you should compel Citigroup to return immediately all federal monies received to date, as well as cancel all loan guarantees.” However, Geithner rejected congressional demands to cancel the naming rights deal.
The Wall Street Journal reported on February 3, 2009 that Citigroup considered breaking the naming rights deal. Citi has stated that no government TARP funds would be used in the sponsorship deal.
Inaugural season patches
On January 14, 2009, the Mets unveiled the Citi Field Inaugural Season sleeve patch, which was worn on the players’ right sleeves for the 2009 season. As Major League Baseball rules prohibit corporate names on uniforms, the standard Citi Field logo could not be used.The patch echoes the shape, colors and orientation of the Citi Field logo, with the name replaced by “INAUGURAL SEASON 2009″. Reaction to the patch was immediate and negative from Mets fans and critics alike, with ESPN Uni Watch writer and blogger Paul Lukas calling it the “worst sleeve patch in MLB history”. Several fans have pointed out a resemblance between the sleeve patch and the logo for Domino’s Pizza, and the patch was mocked on an episode of The Colbert Report.
In its opening season, Citi Field drew over 3.1 million fans with a game average of 92.7% of seats filled, 4th best in baseball.