the NEW STADIUMS
conception of the new Yankee Stadium project
got it right
with the new stadiums
By MAURY ALLEN
The new Yankee Stadium
in the Bronx will look a lot like the old Yankee Stadium in the
The new Shea Stadium in Queens will look a lot like the old Ebbets
Field in Brooklyn.
George Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon, owners of the Yankees and
the Mets, are finally getting it right. It has only taken them
about half a century.
Boston was the first team to move in modern times with a 1953
shift from Beantown to Beertown. Milwaukee County Stadium was
a sterile joke. At least the beer was cold.
Baseball wanted flighty Bill Veeck out of their hair so they
allowed the St. Louis Browns to move to Baltimore and open in
the concrete coldness of Memorial Stadium there as long as Veeck
didnt come along for the ride.
That Roman coliseum of a building was succeeded in 1992 by the
cute, nostalgic, adorable Oriole Park at Camden yards.
Chalk up one for the engineers.
All of this stadium talk in New York comes on the heels of one
of the great political defeats in city history. Mayor Michael
Bloomberg had put all his cards and a lot of his bucks on the
table for a new stadium on the west side of Manhattan. It was
supposed to be the anchor building for New Yorks 2012 Olympic
The other politicians who didnt think of the idea first
fought it like hell. It would ruin the city. It would create
a traffic nightmare. It would pollute Manhattan. It would damage
the fish swimming gently in the garbage-filled Hudson River.
Yada, yada, yada.
They wanted schools built or hospitals or parks or giant apartment
Madison Square Garden, home of the moribund New York Knicks and
non-existent New York Rangers of faded hockey fame, owned by
television giant Cablevision, fought it with fire. Had Cablevision
fought that hard to improve the Knicks or end the hockey lockout
that might have mattered.
Schools wont be built. Hospitals wont go up. Apartment
buildings wont happen. This is a dirty, polluted, out of
midtown area. The guess is it will be much the same, garbagy,
20 or 30 years from now.
So the mayor called his rich buddies, Wilpon and Steinbrenner,
and quickly sealed the deal for new parks.
What was intriguing to me as an old Brooklyn kid was the remembrances
of parks past. Both of these new stadiums will capture the glory
of New York sports past. New Yankee Stadium, maybe named Steinbrenner
Field, will have the old façade, the bullpens in right
and Monument Park in the center.
The new Shea Stadium--guess how many people coming to the park
every day have no idea who Bill Shea was (the lawyer who brought
NL baseball back to NY)--may be called Ebbets Field revisited.
Naming rights are a big deal and 20 or 25 million can get your
family name in lights. Both the Mets and Yankees said they would
consider that kind of help from the wealthy warriors around town.
What Steinbrenner and Wilpon did in these stadium moves was restore
baseball back to its roots. The new parks will be fan friendly.
Sight lines will be terrific. The prices for seats will be reasonable.
There will be, in conjunction with a new New York City law, two
bathrooms for women for every one for men. Casey Stengel, the
first manager of the Mets, made that important in 1964 when Shea
opened and he announced, They have 51 bathrooms here and
none of them flush.
Houstons Astrodome was a major mechanical miracle, underground
and covered. Air conditioned. Wow. Then came dozens of cookie
cutter parks, all too big, too awkward and too the same in Pittsburgh,
Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit, Arizona and on and on. Cleveland
was an exception and a fixed up Fenway in Boston and Chicagos
Wrigley Field had that old charm.
These new stadiums in New York might even help the citys
Olympic bid, though prognosticators say the 2012 games are already
locked up for Paris. Then 2016 will have a NY chance.
Ebbets Field was my church when I was a kid, starting there in
the 1930s and visiting regularly into the middle 1950s. After
that the Brooklyn Dodgers were gone and Shea Stadium and even
remodeled Yankee Stadium never held much allure. They were just
parks where the Mets and Yankees played but hearts werent
This is all a big boost for NY, especially after the tragedy
The common denominator for Americans happens to be sports. The
percentage of people who care about music or art or politics
or theater is minimal. Those who care about sports to some degree
may be 90 per cent of walking Americans.
So this is a big deal. I dont like to throw kudos around
too easily to multi-billionaires because it is more fun knocking
them. But I have to applaud Bloomberg for his aggressiveness
and Steinbrenner and Wilpon for willingness, worthiness and creativity.
On to the new parks in 2009 and 2010. New York is building again.
New stadiums and a new World Trade Center by the end of the decade.
Take that, Bin Laden.
©2005 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001
by Jim Hummel. This column first posted on June 20, 2005.
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