Part 2: Bringing Citi Field to Life
During Part 1, I explained how the area known as Flushing Meadows—Corona Park came into existence. This part talks about how the venue of the Winter Classic, Citi Field came into existence. By the end of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s tenure in 2001, a lot of money was saved to ensure that both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets would have new ballparks by the year 2009. While Yankee Stadium cost $2.3 Million to build, Citi Field cost a mere $610 Million to build, which included a lease to keep the Mets in New York until 2049. The new home of the Mets was heavily influenced by the two former homes of New York’s National League teams. The all-green seating is from the Polo Grounds, the home of the New York Giants and the first home of the Mets. The exterior is reminiscent of Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The two designs were something Mets owner Fred Wilpon wanted to have when Citi Field was being designed. As you walk towards the front entrance, you enter the ballpark through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, named after the first player of color to play in the Major Leagues. The rotunda was formally dedicated on April 15, 2009, the 62nd anniversary of when Robinson broke the color barrier. The 160-foot rotunda features a large #42 sculpture and engravings and images of the 9 values of life: Courage, Excellence, Persistence, Justice, Teamwork, Commitment, Citizenship, Determination and Integrity, which can be summarized in his most famous saying: “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives”, which is engraved on the top ring of the rotunda. The Orange Foul Poles came over from Shea Stadium, and the skyline that was sitting atop The Shea Stadium scoreboard now rests atop The Shake Shack at Taste of the City in center field. Other influences of New York are located through the ballpark. The Shea Bridge, located in right-center field, is based on the Hell Gate Bridge, which connect Queens and The Bronx. The bridge also connects the long lineage of New York’s National League team, from the Giants and Dodgers to the Mets.
When Citi Field opened, it was notorious for being a pitchers’ park, which was one of the unique quirks about Shea Stadium. To help make the ballpark more friendly to hitters, based on a suggestion from Mets general manager Sandy Anderson, the fences were moved in prior to the 2012 season, reducing the left field wall from 16 feet to 8, and moving the right center field distance from 415 feet to 390. When comparing Park Factor for home runs — the rate of stats at home vs. the rate of stats on the road in which a rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter — Citi Field had a Park Factor for Home Runs at 1.057, which was the 12th highest in the Majors. That season saw only 130 home runs hit out of Citi Field. Last season, Citi Field’s Park Factor for Home Runs was .798; the third lowest in the Majors. There was 210 home runs hit out of Citi field, a 61% increase from season 1 in 2009 to season 9 in 2017.
Citi Field has hosted a bunch of events in its first 9 years. The 2013 MLB All-Star Game, the 2015 World Series, concerts from Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga, and even a MLS Playoff match when NYCFC played Columbus Crew SC, because their normal home field, Yankee Stadium, was being used during the 2017 American League Championship Series.
This is the first of a 5-part series about the upcoming NHL Winter Classic.
This is the valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.
These are the words F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the Corona Ash Dumps, the land in which Flushing Meadows— Corona Park would be built upon for the 1939 World’s Fair. During nearly 30 years of filling the marshland neat the Flushing Creek with the ash of incinerated trash, around 50 million cubic yards of ash and waste were dumped onto the site, creating black mounds that were as high as 100 feet and were 30 feet in thickness. Why do this? Michael Degnon, the contractor of the Williamsburg Bridge and the Steinway Tunnel (for which the 7 trains run on) believed the land was “all but worthless”. If you lived near the dumps at the time, it was an eyesore, it smelled bad, and there was a large infestation of rodents. mosquitoes, and horse manure. In 1916, the dumps were the cause of a polio outbreak in the area. Enter Robert Moses, the legendary former commissioner of New York State Parks. He had the vision of taking the ash dumps and turning it into a park, bigger than Central Park in Manhattan. In 1934, the City of New York took control of the Corona Ash Dumps and began planning to turn the site into a place to welcome the world in 1939. Construction began in 1936, and the eyesore of black mounds swathed in the foul odor of waste were beginning to be leveled. Four highways were built to bisect the site: the Van Wyck Expressway, the Long Island Expressway, and the Grand Central Parkway. This reclamation of a dump site and turning it into a public park also occurred in Brooklyn with both Marine Park Spring Meadow Park and Ferry Point Park in The Bronx.
Only one building remains from the 1939 World’s Fair: the New York City Building, which is now The Queens Museum. The rest of the park was refurbished for the 1964 World’s Fair. The Unisphere stands where the Trylon and Perisphere once stood and a couple of new permanent buildings were constructed for the 1964 Fair. The New York State Pavilion, which is now a symbol of urban decay in New York, and a multipurpose stadium that would serve as the home of both New York’s new National League team, the Mets and New York’s American Football League team, the Jets. Shea Stadium was the home to both teams until 1984, when Jets owner Leon Hess moved his team to the Meadowlands in New Jersey because Mayor of New York Ed Koch did not want to pay more money to expand Shea Stadium. The Mets would be the lone tenant of Shea Stadium until 2008, when a new modern-day ballpark would be constructed next to Shea, and this ballpark would not just honor Shea, but the overall design would evoke a ballpark from the other borough, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
To be continued…
Merry Christmas, everybody! If you didn’t see the last Coach’s Corner Saturday night, this is my Christmas present to you!
In case you missed last night’s coverage of the Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic, here’s what happened on Coach’s Corner last night from Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.
A lot of things happened on December 14: Roald Amundsen became the first person to the South Pole on December 14, 1911; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway finished construction on December 14, 1909; 40 years ago today, John Travolta disco danced his way into immortality in Saturday Night Fever, and George Washington took his last breath on this day in 1799. But none of those compared to what happened on this day last year. During an episode Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon, a moment occurred that proves the theory of you can’t script live television.
It was this moment that spurred a running gag throughout the 2016-17 season on the show. First there was this:
And when the Chicago Blackhawks came to Toronto, this happened:
And it all started because of what happened on this day, December 14, 2016.