I spent Saturday afternoon at Citi Field, the New York Mets’ newly built, 45,000-seat stadium in Flushing, Queens, and can report that it is a lovely place to take in a baseball game. The seats are wide, the views of the grass field splendid, the brick, limestone and granite exterior façade, modeled after Ebbets field, every bit as attractive as advertised. Best of all is the Jackie Robinson rotunda, which pays homage to the legendary second baseman who broke baseball’s color line. Like all new sporting facilities, there are an excess of amenities for the well-to-do (luxury boxes, cherry-paneled elevators, reported plans to open a lobster-roll stand), and a dearth of affordable cheap seats, leaving one to wonder how many working-class Mets fans will get to take their families to the ballpark this year.
But the real problem with the new stadium lies elsewhere, in its name. Last I checked, Citigroup did not put up the hundreds of millions of dollars in rent credits and capital funds for the stadium. New York’s taxpayers did, the same taxpayers who have since forked over tens of billions in bailout funds to Citi and the rest of the financial industry. As reported here, two Congressmen, Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, and Dennis Kucinich, the leftist Ohio Democrat, have written a letter calling on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to demand that Citigroup back out of the deal. Here’s another idea: add a question to this year’s all-star ballots asking fans whether stadiums built with taxpayer money should have any corporate sponsors. If owners reject the idea, fans could start a grassroots petition gathering signatures to have the stadiums they built renamed after more exemplary citizens. The Jackie Robinson rotunda is really nice; Jackie Robinson Park would be even better.