Call Me Crazy, But...

After getting my first look at the shining new Mecca of the Philadelphia sports world, I'm just not sold that it's any better or more original than the pile of rubble that sits next to it along Pattison Avenue. Sure, the Phillies' brass would love to have you believe that their posh new digs are far and away better than Veterans Stadium, and in some ways they certainly are, but overall I believe they leave plenty to be desired.

The overall design of Citizens Bank Park lacks much originality. The left field scoreboard looks like it has simply been imported from Coors Field and placed in South Philadelphia. The low brick backstop behind home plate could just as well have been from Minute Maid Park in Houston than from the Phils new home. The look and feel of the concourses seemed to come straight out of Baltimore's Camden Yards and failed to make any unique impression on me, the fan. Did I mention that the "Memory Lane" along Ashburn Alley bears a striking resemblance to the history walk that is part of Yankee Stadium's outfield attractions? This lack of much uniqueness wasn't lost on some fans as I heard one fan tell his friend, "There isn't anything special about this park."

But it's not just the blasé design of the stadium that needs fixing, there are some practical issues that need to be addressed as well. The Phillies new home is a very open stadium as opposed to the hulking octorad that they played in for so long. This octorad, however, provided cover and warmth for a myriad of fans on chilly April and September nights. Similar refuge from the elements cannot be had in the Phils new park as Sunday's cold rain delay proved. Also during the rain delay, the concourses proved to be inadequate to handle the large number of fans who sought refuge there from the elements. Unlike the Vet, where the entire 300 level could remain in their seats protected from the rain by the covering of the upper deck, no such protection is afforded to fans in the Phils new home. Thus, most fans flooded the concourse and shops during the rain delay causing a gridlock that resembled the Schuylkill at rush hour.

And then there were the bathrooms. On the very first day of the new ballpark, the bathrooms were, well atrocious. There was a puddle of God knows what in the middle of the floor, only four stalls for all the fans who needed access to them, and already there were urinals that were broken and covered with black trash bags. Did I mention that there were no paper towels, either? At least the Vet had an excuse for the decrepit condition of its facilities but for a brand new stadium to have facilities in this kind of condition is unacceptable. As one fan in the restroom quipped, "It's like we never left."

Citizens Bank Park is an improvement over Veterans Stadium but, honestly with all the hype and hysteria that surrounded its opening, I expected more from a stadium billed as being uniquely Philadelphian and made to offer fans all the amenities that the Vet never did. The new home of the Phillies is, dare I say, cookie cutter, when compared with other stadiums around baseball and I believe will have a lifespan even shorter than the concrete cookie cutter we just demolished.

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