In-depth: Roof debate long-closed

Adam Rubin

With no retractable roof at Citi Field, Mr. Met sometimes needs an umbrella.

PITTSBURGH -- The Mets squeezed in both games against the Milwaukee Brewers last week while dodging raindrops at Citi Field. Yet wouldn’t it have been nice to have simply closed a retractable roof and allowed fans not to have to worry?

Of course, unlike the two most recent stadiums visited by the Mets -- new Marlins Park in Miami and Rogers Centre in Toronto -- the Mets’ four-season-old ballpark was constructed as an open-air stadium without that feature.

The bottom line: It cost too much.

Yankees president Randy Levine told Newsday last year, when Game 1 of the team’s American League Division Series was suspended, that incorporating a roof into the new Yankee Stadium would have cost roughly an additional $350 million. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon years ago, before the Mets’ stadium had opened, had cited the figure for Citi Field as adding $200 million or more to the cost of what became an $850 million project anyway.

Levine also had cited George Steinbrenner’s preference for an open-air stadium in the Bronx in the Newsday article. In the Mets’ case, that objection may not have existed, but the numbers just did not make sense for these reasons:

The soft Flushing soil conditions near the bay did not support a roof without significant additional costs that made it prohibitive.

Fans residing 75 miles away may stay away with the threat of rain, but fans within closer proximity generally are not dissuaded from attending because they live close enough to the ballpark to make an informed choice closer to the first pitch. The lost business from the threat of inclement weather does not offset the significant additional costs of a roof.

The number of concerts and other dates events able to be booked as the result of a having roof -- say, during the winter -- is limited and does not offset the additional cost, either. A roofed baseball stadium works for major concerts that draw 40,000, but there are only a handful of entertainers who can fill that many seats.

More than a decade ago, in the waning days of Rudy Giuliani’s tenure as mayor, the original designs for the new New York stadiums included roofs and involved a sizable financial commitment from New York City. Priorities changed after 9/11, and so did the administration. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not as inclined to chip in, and the real stadium designs lost the retractable-roof concepts.

The Mets are footing a large portion of the construction cost through interest payments on bonds. Those payments are now about $50 million annually.

The Mets ended up playing four home doubleheaders last year as a result of rainouts -- April 14 against the Rockies, Aug. 29 against the Marlins, Sept. 8 against the Braves and Sept. 24 against the Phillies. In previous years, those games would be made up as split, day-night doubleheaders that would provide the organization with gate receipts from two separate games. Now, with attendance lagging, the Mets simply do single-admission doubleheaders.

“In-depth” appears Tuesdays during the regular season