Monday, April 12, 2004

WE BUILT THIS CITI: You know that scene, late in Rudy, when Ned Beatty comes through the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium and proclaims the field to be "the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen"?

Well, visiting the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park today for the first time wasn't quite that.

Yes, it's a good park. And there are really nice touches -- a spare, Deco clock in dead center field; old school pennants proclaim the Phillies' few memorable seasons; wonderfully helter-skelter looking walkways connecting the left field upper deck with the scoreboard section; all the seats face home plate; and, more than anything, a sense of angularity. This place has corners all over the place, and it's neat. (I wish there were pictures I could link to; sorry.)

But there's some problems, and not just that the park isn't in Center City where it belongs. The concourses lack tv monitors to let you watch the game while waiting in line for food, and they feel way too confined, although that may have been accentuated by the combination of crowd and precipitation. The food's undersized and overpriced, as you'd expect. The scoreboards provide batting average and runs batted in statistics, but not on-base or slugging percentages. You can't see the bullpens from a lot of seats. And, in general, the Phillies' upgrade in accomodations didn't come with an upgrade in game-day production -- same tired songs, tired video segments, tired Phanatic shtick.

But the biggest problem is this, and it's the same thing I said after they opened the Linc: if the team is going to lose, it's not magically more pleasant because they're losing on natural grass now.

In the end, a winning stadium is a happy one, even at the Vet, and a loss is no less painful for having occurred under brighter lights and prettier seats. If the team doesn't win, this place will be as empty as PNC or Miller Park is -- Philadelphia fans are way too savvy to spent good money attending bad baseball.

This is a playoff-caliber team, but 1-6 is no way to start a season.

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