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New York's Pricey New Baseball Parks

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By Bruce Adams and Margaret Engel
Special to The Washington Post and Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 3, 2009

When the new baseball palaces of the New York Mets and Yankees opened recently, the teams started knocking the ball out of the park -- and the money out of fans' wallets. Prices for tickets and food increased slightly over last year, but don't let the small spike drive you to the nearest sports bar. If you take the subway, nab a lower-end seat and eat bleacher cuisine, you can spend a day enjoying the national pastime for less than $50.

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The Mets' Citi Field in Queens and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx are the latest entries in the second golden age of ballpark construction, which began with Chicago's Comiskey Park (the second iteration) in 1991 and Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards a year later. Only Boston's Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago's Wrigley Field (1914) remain from the first great era almost a century ago.

Like the teams, the two parks were not built alike: The Mets constructed a ballpark; the Yankees created a stadium.

Citi Field was inspired by Ebbets Field (1913), the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Polo Grounds (1911), where the New York Giants played. The new park also pays tribute to Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier when he began his career with the Dodgers in 1947. The nine values of his life -- courage, excellence, persistence, justice, teamwork, commitment, citizenship, determination, integrity -- are etched around a rotunda named after him. Visitors snap photos of one another by his Dodger number, an eight-foot-tall blue 42.

Similar to the Mets' old home at Shea Stadium, which lies in rubble nearby, Citi Field is served by the Willets Point subway station, and planes from LaGuardia continue to buzz overhead. Yet everything else -- except the prices, which are $5 to $7 more -- is far better at Citi Field.

While the Mets could fit 57,000 fans inside Shea, the new park has only 42,000 seats. Children are prized customers here, with free batting cages, a T-ball mini-park, a dunk tank and a kiosk with baseball video games. Fans can sit at picnic tables and watch the game, or grab a seat at tables overlooking the bullpens.

Yankee Stadium pays homage to the original 1923 venue, transporting the elegance and grandeur of its historic architecture (as well as the live organ music) across the street. The new model, reached by the same subway line, is a great improvement over an unfortunate 1975 renovation.

Monument Park, which opens three hours before game time, honors some of baseball's greatest heroes. In the concourse, the Yankees display their history with huge photo murals, and there is a small museum, though only committed fans will want to brave the long wait to see Thurman Munson's locker and statues of Don Larson and Yogi Berra. Unlike at Citi Field, there are no fan-friendly benches or picnic tables on the concourse, nor are there special attractions for kids.

The 52,325-capacity Yankee Stadium feels monstrous, but staff members try to make it homier by holding signs asking, "How may I help you?" In addition, more ushers are available to assist, and fans can text security if a bleacher-mate is getting too rowdy.

As with the best contemporary ballparks, these two combine nostalgic architecture with modern amenities. Both parks provide wide concourses that allow spectators to grab a snack while watching the game on the field. Both also serve brown mustard, sushi, (overpriced) lobster rolls, salads, barbecue, Italian and Latin food, and Nathan's hot dogs. Thanks to a city law, calorie counts are posted at the larger concession stands. Those numbers can startle, as in the 1,484-calorie box of popcorn.

The culinary nod goes to Citi Field for its more varied, tastier and slightly cheaper food, plus its condiment kiosks with sauerkraut, peppers and onions. But the Yankees hit a grand slam with the Lobel's steak sandwich on an onion roll, the meat hand-trimmed by butchers working behind glass. Yes, it's $15, but it's big enough for two, and you will be sated even if the game runs into extra innings.

The Mets and Yankees both sell pregame single tickets through Ticketmaster, which adds service fees of $4 to $24, depending on the purchase. (Tickets sold at the walk-up window do not incur a service fee, but be aware that many games sell out in advance.) The lowest-priced Mets tickets are $11 (promenade reserved) and $15 (promenade infield); the cheapest Yankees tickets are $14 (bleacher) and $23 (grandstand). Though lower-priced tickets are available, they can be difficult to find for popular games; however, check resellers such as StubHub (http://www.stubhub.com) before settling for a more expensive seat.

Keep in mind that at Citi Field, fans sitting behind left field in the bleachers can't see the action on the warning track. And at Yankee Stadium, avoid the bleacher seats on either side of direct centerfield, because of restricted views. Granted, you're not spending a fortune for a day at New York's ballparks, but you still deserve an unobstructed VIP experience.

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Details: Baseball

To reach the Mets' Citi Field in Queens by subway, take the 7 train from Grand Central Station to Willets Point. For Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, take the 4 train from Grand Central to 161st Street. To avoid lines at the subway after the game, add the return fare on your MetroCard.

Citi Field's best food choices include Taste of the City Shack Burger and Shack-Cago Dog Dog ($5.75), Shake Shack frozen custard shake ($6.50), Usinger's chicken and apple bratwurst ($6), Catch of the Day ginger lemonade ($4.75) and Nonna Delia's brick-oven whole-wheat pizza ($5.50).

At Yankee Stadium, try Lobel's steak sandwich ($15), Boar's Head turkey and cheddar chef salad ($8.50), mixed fruit at Melissa's Fruit Stand ($5.50), Brother Jimmy's BBQ fried pickles ($8) and Mike's Deli sugared doughnuts ($6). Info for Mets, mets.mlb.com; for Yankees, yankees.mlb.com.

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