When I was in high school, I went to every single home football game, but I didn’t watch the games at all. For me it was a social event. I’d spend three hours walking around and around the field, stopping to talk to people, hitting the snack shack, flirting ineptly with girls.
For many people, a trip to Citizen’s Bank Park is exactly the same.
The park is a gorgeous, brilliantly designed park. Some of the other new ball parks like PNC and AT&T feel small and intimate. Citizen’s Bank Park feels gigantic. It feels like you’re stepping out into the Roman Colliseum. The music over the loudspeakers blasts twice as loud as any park. The crowd is a cheering, crashing sea of red shirts and caps. It’s fun.
But the real genius of the park is not the stadium itself, it is the concession area. At the older parks, if going from your seat to the concession areas you travel through a concrete tunnel. When you’re standing in line for a hot dog, you feel like you’re in a parking garage.
But at Citizen’s Bank Park, nothing separates the concession area from the stands. It’s entirely open. So when you’re buying a beer, you can still see the field. You can hear the crowd. You never really leave the action. You can see what I mean in this photo.
At the top of the stands, you’ll find crowds of people around beverage carts and food stands, hanging out and watching the game. Now check out the diagram.
The pink seats are the lower deck of the stands. Behind them is a giant ringed concourse filled with restaurants, picnic tables, beer taps, mounted TVs and mobs of people hanging out. You could spend half the game hanging out in the concourse and still be part of the crowd watching the game.
Because here is the truth about Citizen’s Bank Park: it’s not really a stadium – it’s a bar.
If you’re in the blue, yellow, or green seats, you’re in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th decks. These seats are high above the field. But really, why would you ever bother to go up and sit in those crappy seats. Just spend your time wandering the concourse, having a great time and enjoying the game.
Now let’s take it a step further. Because while the Phillies are on the field, I believe that the game does more than just extend beyond the crowd and into the concession area. In fact, I believe that it spreads out from the field, to the stands, to the concessions, and outward unhindered through the entire city of Philadelphia and even beyond.
In the same way that I think Citizen’s Bank Park is really a bar, it follows that the tremendous Phillies team of the last 10 years are more than just a baseball team. The Phillies have been the hosts of a party and every single person in the city has been invited.
Consider this: In 2009, the Yankees and the Phillies were in the World Series. Cliff Lee pitched game 1 for the Phillies and dominated the game. It was the most masterful pitching performance I’ve ever seen. He made the Yankees ferocious batters look like a Junior High team.
The next morning at work, my friends John and Sonia came cavorting into my office.
“Did you watch the game last night? Sucker!”
“Your Yankees didn’t look very good!”
They were having a great time. I rolled my eyes and ignored them.
“I think your Yankees are going to lose,” John sang. “I love Cliff Lee.”
“Plus the Phillies pitcher tonight is even better,” Sonia piled on.
“What’s that pitcher’s name?” I responded.
This stumped them.
“I don’t know,” John finally cackled, “but he’s going to beat your Yankees.”
Sonia and John both lived in Philadelphia. And while it should be obvious that they knew nothing about baseball, both of them absolutely knew how to enjoy a party. They’d been invited to the Phillies party and were having the time of their lives prancing around my office.
As a resident of the greater Philadelphia area, I can tell you that it’s been a joyous, once-in-a lifetime party. It’s a team and a time that I think people will still talk about 50 years from now. And it is my opinion that it is at least partly due to the brilliant and wide-open welcome design of Citizen’s Bank Park.
*Please note, in 2009 the Yankees went on to beat the Phillies and win the World Series. Needless to say there was no more cavorting from either John or Sonia.