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Latest Developments in a Crosstown Rivalry


Jan 4, 2004
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Latest Developments in a Crosstown Rivalry

Published: May 1, 2007

Home plate at Citi Field in Flushing is marked by a patch of Astroturf. In the Bronx, an outcropping of New York schist was leveled by chisel hammers attached to earth movers to clear the land for the future home plate at the new Yankee Stadium.

The pitcher?s mound in the Bronx will be where a yellow Dumpster rests, while a steel span in Flushing that emulates the Hell Gate bridge over the East River will soon support the concourse in right-center field.

The Mets and the Yankees are racing to open their new stadiums by opening day 2009. Those passing the construction sites ? huge rocky pits that are filled with cranes, earth movers, steel, giant pieces of precast concrete ? see the concrete frame of one stadium rising in the Bronx over former parkland and another one of steel ascending over parking spaces beside Shea Stadium.

?This place is so big, so wide open now, but when it?s filled with grass and seats, it will envelop you,? said Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer of the Mets, as he walked through the Citi Field site during a recent tour.

Behind him, Shea remains, a vestige of an unadventurous period in sports architecture. ?A dull, dingy place,? Wilpon said.

In his office, Wilpon keeps a miniature replica of Ebbets Field, a daily reminder of the architectural muse of Citi Field. It includes the rotunda through which Brooklyn Dodgers fans, including his father, Fred, the Mets? principal owner, used to enter. He removed the tiny rotunda piece from the rest of the model and said, ?Fred can tell us how it used to smell in there.?

A reimagined rotunda, which will be named for Jackie Robinson, is also beginning to take shape; so is the footprint of the Great Hall, a meeting place, among other things, through which many of the fans visiting the new Yankee Stadium will enter. It will stand 60 feet high and span left field to right field, along 161st Street, from Jerome Avenue to River Avenue.

?It will be unparalleled, similar in scope to the Grand Central Station waiting room,? said Valerie Peltier, a managing director for development of Tishman Speyer, on a tour of the Yankee Stadium site last week. Tishman Speyer is overseeing construction of the $800 million stadium. Jerry Speyer, the company?s president, is on the board of Yankee Global Enterprises.

Executives from each team said that they were not competing with each other over who would have the better ballpark. It is almost enough that the deals were made, with city and state contributions for infrastructure and other nonconstruction costs, to let the teams build new ballparks. Since 1991, 18 new major league stadiums have been built.

?After nothing happening for 15 or 20 years, it?s all happening here in the same time period,? said Dave Howard, an executive vice president of the Mets. Beside the ballparks, the Devils? arena in Newark is nearly done, the Jets and the Giants are planning construction of their shared Meadowlands stadium, and the Nets hope to start building their arena in Brooklyn soon.

The first level of the steel structure in Flushing is nearly in place, with yellow caution tape flapping in the wind, affording a raw view of a design fiat: fans will be able to see the field nearly anywhere they walk along the 40-foot-wide concourses, except from behind the Sterling luxury boxes that are 18 rows from field level, a club on the Promenade level and a restaurant in left field.

?In the old stadiums, nobody thought about that,? Wilpon said.

Three levels of concrete structure are in various stages of completion at the new Yankee Stadium, more along right field than left. Rakers, 40-foot pieces of steel onto which the seats will be installed, will be arriving next week. A crane to handle the steel is being assembled.

The construction already obscures a portion of the rusted elevated train tracks and takes place around a New York City Transit substation that will eventually be blocked by the giant outfield scoreboard.

Nascent dugouts are visible in little excavations several feet below field level across a rocky landscape from which 350 cubic yards of dirt were removed before construction began. The future site of Monument Park is below a platform that supports several office trailers.

?The most interesting thing to me,? said Lonn Trost, the chief operating officer of the Yankees, looking over the site, ?is to take the tradition of Yankee Stadium, replicate it here, and provide fans with something new.?

The new stadium will have the same field dimensions as the current one, with more seats angled to the infield. It will also resurrect the original exterior with limestone, concrete and granite, and recreate the frieze that ringed the stadium, with 39 sections of white-painted steel weighing six tons each, to be made in Quebec. The new frieze should not turn green in the air, as did the old copper one, which was removed in the 1974-5 stadium renovation.

Some of the 24,000 pieces of precast concrete that will comprise the Citi Field exterior are already in Flushing, some weighing 1,000 pounds. The front of each piece is covered with bricks, which are sliced lengthwise to reduce the weight yet create the impression of a brick facade. It is so different in architectural ambition and style from the original Shea design of blue and orange tiles arranged over exposed ramps.

?By the end of this season, most of the exterior facade will be in place,? Howard said. ?It will look like the virtual model we have online.?

Shea still serves a purpose, beyond housing the Mets for two more seasons, and it is not simply to underscore the limits of the dual-purpose stadiums. Inside an unused section of the World?s Fair-era hulk, the Mets have built a showroom that depicts what the 10 Sterling and 40 Excelsior luxury suites will look like (the former will have bathrooms modeled on the Four Seasons restaurant?s). Various types of seats can be tested for comfort.

The team is also using the showroom to assess carpeting, tile, color and other design schemes ? Jeff Wilpon, who grew up in the family?s real estate development business, can offer a spiel about terrazzo floors ? for the suites, clubhouses and concourses. The concourses may have glazed wall tile.

?I want to know what we?ve designed before we sell it,? Wilpon said.

The $600 million stadium will reflect its era, as its predecessor did. Shea?s opening was envisioned for 1962, the Mets? inaugural season, but after delays, it took about two more years to complete. The original Yankee Stadium took an astonishingly quick 284 days to finish in time, providing the team with a home of its own after being told to leave the Polo Grounds.

?How often do you get to build Yankee Stadium?? Peltier said. ?Never.?

Well, almost.


Aug 2, 2005
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new york is having two stadiums built and we can't even get one. :confused

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