We had an opportunity to visit the new Mets Stadium, Citi Field, over the weekend and have to admit, walked away feeling a bit ambivalent about the current state of America’s past time. While the space itself was certainly impressive and well-designed, featuring clear sight lines from virtually anywhere in the park, along with a number of family-friendly baseball-themed areas from batting cages to a miniature stadium for kids, it seems like a small consolation considering the rather exorbitant prices being charged for everything from bleacher seats to hot dogs.
Which may be nothing new, but was an even harder pill to swallow given the fact that it felt like everyone there was being forced to pay twice. Tax money aside, not only was every fan in attendance helping to pay for these improvements with their wallets, but with their attention spans as well. This stadium might be one of the most well branded pieces of real estate in the entire state, both in terms of physical and mental space.
During every half inning, at least one, if not several promotions were being broadcast throughout the ball park and shown up on the giant screen with a chance for lucky fans to win branded merchandise. While at the same time advertisements were literally being shot into the stands in the form of t-shirts blasted out of bazookas. Even the blimp languidly floating up above sported an enormous digital display that would have smacked of “Blade Runner“-esque dsytopia, if not for the blazing sun.
And while this attitude seems a bit at odds with the notion that a day at the ball park should be one of excess and escape, despite our reservations, we were all ready to dive head first into the experience, which for us is as much about the food as it the game. But even the eating proved to be a trickier aspect than one would think, providing some of the most interesting revelations of the day.
The standard fare – from sausages and beer to ice cream and soda – was well represented, along with higher-end options from popular New York City venues like Shake Shack and Blue Smoke thus elevating the refrains of “buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks” to whole new price points.
But no matter what price you were willing to pay for your meal, every item, haute or not, came with the added cost of calories. As part of NYC’s push to get its residents in the mindset of daily allowances, the Mets have stepped up to the plate, posting nutrition information on all the stadium’s menus, making the idea of shelling out $7.50 for a Bud, doubly taxing.
Thankfully, they’ve offset these choices with healthier selections like fresh fruit, which from the looks of the well-stocked displays (no one was buying) and location in the back corner of the stadium, appeared more for the illusion of health than for any real conscious decision to promote thoughtful alternatives. So while it’s hard to call it effective, it certainly is an effort. And as much as this renewed attention to health is admirable, on top of everything else, it only serves to drain a little more joy out of going to a game.
But no matter how much the experience may be co-opted by corporations and city officials, there’s still something undeniably special about the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. Something that can never be quantified by price tags and calorie counts.