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Volume 20 No. 42
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Bustling Citi: Mets inviting in lacrosse, Spartan Race and more

Don Muret
Citi Field will be elevated to a national stage July 12 when the ballpark plays host to the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.

For the New York Mets, the stadium’s owner and operator, the midsummer classic is the highest-profile date among several special events the team has planned on the field this year.

On March 17, two weeks before Opening Day for the Mets, the first Metropolitan Lacrosse Classic at Citi Field will feature a college men’s doubleheader with Holy Cross-Navy, followed by Michigan-Colgate. ESPN3 and ESPNU will share broadcast coverage.

On April 13, six days after the Mets’ first homestand concludes, the Reebok Spartan Race to Citi Field, an endurance challenge conducted over a three-mile obstacle course, will use parts of the diamond, said Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president of business operations. A similar race last fall at Fenway Park drew an estimated 10,000 competitors, race organizers said.

The layout for lacrosse is similar to that of international soccer, which Citi Field has played host to on several occasions.
In addition, Citi Field could potentially host two concerts this summer, including a benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims. The Mets continue negotiations with promoters for those two events, Howard said.

It’s all part of the team’s drive to generate incremental revenue from special events, which falls outside the defined revenue streams that the Mets must share with other MLB teams, Howard said.

For the inaugural lacrosse classic, which will be presented by Konica Minolta, the Mets would be satisfied to draw 15,000 to 20,000, he said. Ticket prices range from $12 in the upper deck to $40 for VIP seats on the field.

Geographically, Citi Field is in Queens, near Long Island, a hotbed for lacrosse. The layout for lacrosse is similar to the FIFA-regulation field set up for three international soccer games the park has had since 2009.

In general, Citi Field, designed by Populous, has a layout with all 41,800 seats oriented toward an area in short center field behind second base. For lacrosse, that line of sight is close to midfield, Howard said.

“The sight lines work well, and from talking to [colleges] in the region I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes an annual event and expands to a tripleheader,” Howard said.

Bill Deacon, the Mets’ field operations and landscaping manager, has assured club officials the playing surface will be maintained to the team’s standards come Opening Day, he said. To prepare the field for lacrosse, the groundskeeping crew will activate a system below ground that pumps warm air through drainage pipes to heat the soil, effectively jump-starting the process for growing grass. The system will be turned on in a few weeks, earlier than usual, to get the grass green in time for the special event, Howard said.

Citi Field’s parking lots will also be busy this season, including days when the Mets are on the road. Cirque de Soleil is booked for 49 shows in March and April under a tent outside the park, a run that could be extended until mid-May, Howard said.

> CLEVELANDER ANNEXES MORE SPACE: The Florida Marlins are making a few tweaks to year-old Marlins Park, including cosmetic upgrades to The Clevelander, the team’s wildly successful nightclub in left field.

For the 2013 season, a neon sign will be attached to the stadium’s exterior on the east side near the club. The sign, visible from the street, will provide the festive space with a stronger brand identity, said Claude Delorme, the team’s executive vice president of operations and events.

The Marlins are also expanding The Clevelander’s real estate by installing a portable fence on the east plaza next to the club for pregame and postgame activities. Some new portable bars will be set up in the open-air space, which can be used for private events, Delorme said.

The team is also changing the club’s floor to a darker color, upgrading the restrooms with tile finishes, and installing more bathroom fixtures to handle large crowds, he said.

The team will continue to sell 116 ticketed seats inside The Clevelander for games, and the room’s total capacity will remain 296, he said.

The renovations will cost about $150,000 to $200,000. Local firm STA Architecture is designing the improvements.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.