Sources suggest the Wilpons did investigate a roof back in 2007 when they were conceiving of Citi Field and found it would cost an additional $100 million to $125 million back then. I’m not here to bash the Wilpons. They did know their real estate, and Citi Field is one of the best of the newer parks in baseball (say what you want about the Wilpons, but they succeeded with their TV endeavor, SNY, and they did know their real estate, which was their main business)...
For those bad at math, the cost is about seven times that now. Forget inflation, which isn’t low, the bigger issues are many, including retrofitting the roof to fit the existing structure and fortifying the land, which is said to be soft.
There was a time when I was such a purist I would have sniffed at the idea of any sort of roof on a baseball stadium. And honestly, there is no substitute for spending a sunny summer day or a warm, dry evening in a completely open-air ballpark. To my mind, there is no finer game experience in all of sports fandom.
But I also speak as someone who lives quite a distance from New York City in West Central Connecticut. If I am to attend a game, it involves taking a day off from work, getting in my car, and driving 45 minutes to an hour to the train station in Fairfield. Then I take a train ride to the city that takes upwards of 1-1/2 hours. Then it's the long subway ride on the 7 train from Grand Central Terminal out to the ballpark. That all really sucks when they call the game late and you find out it was all for basically nothing.
While every fan experience is different, spending a day or evening at the ballpark requires a level of commitment for everyone. Taking a family out to a game requires a great deal of preparation and effort. Whether you took time off from work or passed on a chance to do something else on game day, it's a big disappointment when Mother Nature spoils your plans.
This is why I can appreciate that the Mets under Cohen's ownership are willing to call games much earlier, even if it occasionally backfires, as on Opening Day. Cohen is willing to forego making a few bucks by forcing fans into the ballpark before calling a game. But it still rankles a little that the Wilpons missed an opportunity to weatherproof the new ballpark they built. Absorbed into the overall cost of building Citi Field, that extra $125 million would have only represented a bit more debt financed.
There really aren't enough rainouts in New York to warrant Steve Cohen spending close to a billion on a roof, but financing $125 million or so back when the field was built should have been a no-brainer. Remember, construction on the park began in 2006 — two and a half years before Madoff's Ponzi Scheme unraveled. It would have been worth it to ensure all home games were played as scheduled. I'm sure the Mets lost some serious money this weekend on the series against the Braves, with 2 rainouts and a single-admission doubleheader. But weekends like this just don't scream out for a billion-dollar fix.
StadiumPage.com has some more photos of the proposed ballpark, including a more modern take on the proposed dome created later than the original proposal.