By Tim Fraser

The New York Mets and the New York Yankees seem to constantly battle for the back page of the New York newspapers. As the Yankees build themselves a new stadium, the Mets, not to be outdone, are also in the process on constructing a $600 million stadium of their own just outside of the left field stands of Shea Stadium.

The stadium was named Citi Field as part of a 20 year partnership between the global financial services company Citigroup and the Mets. Citigroup will pay the team $20 million per year for the naming rights as well as other exclusive marketing agreements. The new stadium is set to open by Opening Day 2009.

“Our new ballpark is the realization of a dream – to create a world-class environment and enduring experience for everyone, especially for the best fans in all of sports,” Fred Wilpon, Chairman of the Board and CEO of New York Mets, said in a press release. “This new ballpark will become the home our fans have long deserved, one created for shared celebrations among future generations of Mets fans.”

Like many new stadiums recently, the Mets and HOK Sport, architect of the new stadium, designed Citi Field to be about the fans. The designers added modern amenities to the new stadium while keeping the nostalgic feel that comes from going to see America’s past time. Each seat on average is 2 inches wider then at Shea Stadium, and with its baseball only design all seats are angled toward the infield to give fans the best possible view. The new wider concourse area will provide continuous sightlines to action on the field as fans visit the parks many new concession areas.

Structurally, the new ballpark was designed with New York City in mind. The exterior is designed to resemble the classic Ebbets Field, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. With tall cathedral windows and brick masonry comparable to the stadium that was demolished in 1960 after the Dodgers left for Los Angeles. The Mets also pay tribute to the old New York stadium by naming one of the new stadiums four restaurants the Ebbets Club Lounge. Former Dodgers second baseman and inarguably the most influential figure in the history of sports, Jackie Robinson will be honored as well with the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. The area will include an exhibition of Robinson’s life as well as a statue of the larger than life figure.

“It is my hope that as individuals and groups walk through the rotunda, they will begin to be inspired and begin to think about their own lives and what the meaning of their own lives is,” Rachel Robinson, Robinson’s widow, said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I hope it will spread not just some joy, but some critical thinking about our society.”

The Mets also plan to build a museum and education center in lower Manhattan to teach children more about Jackie Robinson’s legacy.

Just outside of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, will be the Citi Field Fanwalk. The Mets website describes the area as “where Mets fans can become a permanent part of Citi Field.” The way to become a permanent part of the stadium is through a purchase of a brick which is engraved with a personalized message and is placed along the walkway. Prices of the bricks vary from $195 to $395, with the net proceeds going to charity through the Mets Foundation.

Seating capacity of Citi Field is 45,000, a total which includes standing room only. That is more than 12,000 less than what is available for fans at Shea Stadium. According to New York Newsday, the most affordable upper level seats will see a decrease by 20,000 seats because the team chose to add more premium seating. Prices for tickets are sure to go up as the amount of tickets available go down. In their final season at Shea, the Mets have already announced an increase in ticket prices for the 2008 season.

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