Citizens Bank Park was a long time coming for the Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball franchise. A really long time. In spite of a really short life span -- 33 years, just like Jesus Christ -- and holding a dear place in the heart of many a Phillies and Eagles fan, The Vet grew obsolete very quickly. It was hard, cold and ugly. Just about every other team in baseball had built a new ballpark in the past decade, and the ones that didn't played on diamonds called Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. (It could be worse, the Mets still have Shea Stadium, but only for two more seasons.)
Seeing the success other teams (Indians, Rockies and of course Orioles) had with downtown parks, the Phillies wanted a downtown park and had the funding to do it, thanks largely in part to lobbying efforts by cross state teams the Pittsburgh Pirates and Penguins, and the signature of then governor Tom Ridge. Except, well . . . it was not to be.
While the Pirates and Steelers opened their stadiums in 2001 and the Eagles were building The Linc next to the FU Center, the Phillies still didn't know what they were going to do. Locations at Broad & Callowhill, Delaware & Spring Garden, and 30th & Walnut -- which directly above an exit to 76 and two blocks from 30th Street Station, where Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and every single Septa regional rail, trolley and el line, was the perfect location, with an amazing northeast-facing skyline view to boot -- were all weighed, but none of these won.
Instead, thanks to the leadership of the Phillies organization and Mayor John Street, a new ballpark was awarded to a site at 13th & Vine . . . which was subsequently killed, thanks to sensible residents of Chinatown who had just a decade earlier seen their neigborhood split by the Vine Street Expressway. After what seemed like very little discussion and consideration for the other locations, it was announced in summer 2001 that the new Phillies ballpark would be . . . right next to The Vet.
Philadelphia's Ewing Cole Cherry Brott and Kansas City's HOK, who've made a name for themselves with their sports venues, collaborated on a somewhat throwback, neighborhood style ballpark which sits in the middle of a parking lot in South Philly. When you're inside the ballpark, it's a beautiful place: excellent sightlines, proximity to the field (and bullpen), the best concession stands in all baseball. The Schmitter and Bull's BBQ have fast lines, Tony Luke's and Rick's serve up the real deal cheesesteak, Planet Hoagie is called Planet Hoagie(!), and the bountiful beer stands serve Yards, Flying Fish, Tröegs, and other local brews. There isn't a bad seat in the house.
But. (This is the Phillies, of course there is a But.) You have to wonder what, if any, benefit the dead area of Pattison Avenue will gain from a baseball park that's open at minimum 81 days a year, much more exciting when it's open more than that. Now in its fourth season, the answer is next to none. McFaddens Pub is the only thing consistently open in the area, and it's in the ballpark. If they sacrificed only a quarter of what used to be The Vet, one could picture a row of shops, bars, stores, something. Better, it would mean that those of us riding the Subway wouldn't have to stop twice to let cars pulling into 'The Vet parking lot' cross our sidewalk. (An aside: as the Citizens Bank Park was opening, Marty Moss-Coane hosted an author who'd written a book about all 30 ballparks on her Radio Times show, and people called in to talk about what the ballpark would be like. I called in and brought up this very idea -- subway pedestrians having to cross parking traffic IF the Phillies didn't relegate the entrances to just Broad & Hartranft and Packer Ave, as they should have -- and the idiotic author snapped "the Phillies are a smart organization, I'm sure they'll think of something." Yeaaaah, no. They're not, and they didn't.)
At least it's got a killer view of the skyline, right? Well yeah, not bad for three miles away (as opposed to directly across the river) and being impeded by a giant Phillies sign the organization likes to call Theme Tower.
And the neighborhood? It's not a neighborhood. It's a giant parking lot and a Holiday Inn. Yeah yeah, like 70 people walk to every Phillies game from their homes in Packer Park. The brick paneled exterior is essentially meaningless but for the trite "traditional Philly red brick" aspect to it. If they had to build the ballpark here, they could have built something boldy and extraordinary, like Chicago's Soldier Field.
But well, we got Citizens Bank Park. It's a fine ballpark, it really is. It's just . . . in the wrong location and . . . it could be so much better. Two things the Phillies could do RIGHT NOW to make it better?
1. Tear down the
2. Turn. Off. The. Siren.
This is SO UNNECESSARY. The golf cart you see here is the siren you hear when you're at the ballpark, when you're listening on the radio, and when you're watching on the tv. No, there was not a murder in Killadelphia that happened during the broadcast. Well okay, there might have been but it wasn't in the ballpark's neighborhood, because the ballpark's neighborhood is not a neighborhood. But that siren you hear that sounds like Killadelphia is not a passing ambulance or police rushing to the scene of a crime; it is a fucking golf cart. There is no question that emergencies will happen and that EMT-driven golf cart will need to help someone out. That's what they make horns for. A simple "beep beep" would go a long way, and it wouldn't make its way onto the airwaves. It's flat out embarrassing that you can hear a siren during a radio/tv broadcast.
Will either of these things happen? Of course not. As long as the Philadelphia Phillies are owned by . . . well, whoever they're owned by, this won't happen. Just like as long as the management includes names like Montgomery, Arbuckle and Amaro, the Phillies will not win a championship. Pat Gillick gets a pass because he's a proven winner and, more importantly, he can only operate within the (financial) boundaries given by those other men.
We're stuck with Citizens Bank Park, the home of the losingest franchise in professional sports history. Might as well enjoy it. Might as well also enjoy reliving the ballpark under construction, which you can do by clicking the graphic below.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Skinny on Citizens Bank Park.