2012-06-20 / Features

1998

New Ball Parks Spurred By Former Speaker Vallone Sr.

n 1998, then City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. battled with then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani over the location of a new home for the New York Yankees American League major league baseball team. The cry for a new stadium arose after a 500-pound steel expansion beam fell onto a seat at the “House That [Babe] Ruth Built”. The mayor issued a proposal to build a new stadium for the Yankees and another for the city’s only National League team, the New York Mets. Giuliani wanted to build the new Yankee Stadium in Manhattan over the West Side railroad yards. Vallone won that round: the Yankees stayed in The Bronx, the team’s home since 1923, and a new ball park bearing the iconic Yankee Stadium name was constructed across the street to the north-northeast of the 1923 Yankee Stadium, on 24 acres of the former site of Macombs Dam Park. The first game played at the new Yankee Stadium was a pre-season exhibition game against the Chicago Cubs on Apr. 3, 2009, which the Yankees won 7–4. Thirteen days later, on April 16, the Yankees lost their first regular season game by a score of 10–2 to the Cleveland Indians. The new Yankee Stadium cost $1.5 billion, the most expensive such structure ever built.

Plans for Citi Field, the replacement for Shea Stadium, were created as part of the New York City 2012 Olympic bid, which later fell through. Citi Field got its name after Citigroup paid $400 million in a naming rights deal. The deal includes an option on both sides to extend the contract to 40 years, and is the most expensive sports-stadium naming rights agreement ever promulgated. The $850 million baseball park was funded by the sale of New York City municipal bonds which are to be repaid by the Mets plus interest. The payments will offset property taxes for the lifetime of the park.

Citi Field’s main entrance is modeled on the one in Brooklyn’s old Ebbets Field, and called the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Located adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda on the first base side is the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum, which opened on Apr. l5, 2010. Its orange foul poles are the same color as in its predecessor, and like Shea Stadium, when a Mets player hits a home run, a giant apple with a Mets logo on the front that lights up, rises from its housing in the center field batter’s eye. The ball park has a capacity of 41,800, some 15,000 fewer seats than Shea Stadium.

The first game played at Citi Field was a college baseball game between St. John's University and Georgetown, with Georgetown winning, 6-4. The first two games played by the Mets at the ballpark on Apr. 3 and 4, 2009 were charity exhibition games against the Boston Red Sox. The first regular season home game was played on Apr. 13, 2009; the San Diego Padres beat the Mets, 6-5.—Linda J. Wilson

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