Mets hold groundbreaking ceremony for CitiField

Updated: November 13, 2006, 6:08 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- David Wright, Jose Reyes -- and Jackie Robinson.

New York Mets fans will get a taste of the old Brooklyn Dodgers as they file into the team's new ballpark, which will include a tribute to the player who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947.

Mets Stadium
AP Photo/New York Mets, FileAn April artist's rendering for the new Mets stadium calls for an exterior design similar to Ebbets Field.

The Mets held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday to celebrate the 45,000-seat ballpark that will replace Shea Stadium at the start of the 2009 season. One feature will be the "Jackie Robinson Rotunda," which will tell the Hall of Famer's story and include a statue of him.

"You look at these plans in this packet and you just get excited," said Wright, the club's All-Star third baseman.

The $800 million stadium will be called CitiField, part of a 20-year sponsorship deal between the Mets and Citigroup Inc. that is said to be worth an average of $20 million annually. Mets owner Fred Wilpon declined to provide details on the financial arrangement.

The design is reminiscent of Ebbets Field, the storied home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"It is my hope that as individuals and groups walk through the rotunda that they will begin to be inspired," said Rachel Robinson, the widow of the baseball great. "I hope it will spread not just some joy but some critical thinking about our society."

Monday's event was largely ceremonial because construction on the new ballpark began about four months ago.

"The 21st-century New York Mets deserve a home befitting an emerging baseball dynasty, and they will have that in this new field," state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said at a ceremony also attended by the governor, mayor and Mets players.

Elected officials who donned hard hats to pose with shovels in the dirt recalled how excited they were when the expansion Mets were born in 1962, bringing National League baseball back to New York City after the departure of the Dodgers and Giants.

Pataki said he used to take the train to watch the Mets at the Polo Grounds, where they played their first two seasons and were famously bad.

"At that point I fell in love with Mets fans, because if there was a walk in the eighth inning you'd see the entire stadium go wild, even if the Mets happened to be behind by 15 runs at the time," he said. "And it's that type of excitement, that type of fan commitment I think, that has really made the Mets a special part of the fabric of New York."

The new Mets stadium will be part of a complete transformation of the New York City ballpark landscape by opening day 2009.

The Yankees are building a $1 billion, 53,000-seat ballpark that is also scheduled to open in 2009, replacing the old Yankee Stadium that was built in 1923.

Shea Stadium opened in 1964. It was named for attorney William A. Shea, who led the effort to bring National League baseball back to the city after the Dodgers and Giants left.

The stadium was the site of some of the most memorable moments in New York sports history, including the Mets' 1986 run to the World Series title and the 2000 Subway Series against the Yankees.

The new park, like many baseball stadiums that were built in the last dozen years, will have old-time features such as brick and limestone arches. The dimensions at Citi Field will be smaller than Shea down the lines, but farther in the gaps: 335 feet to left field, 408 to center, 330 to right. Shea is 338 to left, 410 to center, 338 to right.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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