Shea Stadium - Features - Design


Shea was a circular stadium, with the grandstand forming a perfect circle around the field and ending a short distance beyond the foul lines. The remainder of the perimeter was mostly empty space beyond the outfield fences. This space was occupied by the bullpens, scoreboards, and a section of bleachers beyond the left field fence. The stadium boasted 54 restrooms, 21 escalators and seats for 57,343. It was big, airy, sparkling, with a massive 86' x 175' scoreboard. Also, rather than the standard light towers, Shea had lamps along its upper reaches, like a convoy of semis with their brights on, which gave the field that unique high-wattage glow. Praised for its convenience, even its "elegance," Shea was actually deemed a showplace. These special features helped make Shea more popular during its lifetime than other "cookie-cutter" venues, like RFK Stadium, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and Three Rivers Stadium.

The stadium was located close to LaGuardia Airport. For many years, interruptions for planes flying overhead were common at Shea, and the noise was so loud that radio and television broadcasts couldn't be heard. Later, flight plans were altered to alleviate the noise problem.

Shea was originally designed to convert from a baseball field into a rectangle field suitable for football using two motor-operated stands that allow the field level seats to rotate on underground railroad tracks. After the New York Jets football team moved to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 1984, the Mets took over operation of the stadium and retrofitted it for exclusive baseball use. As part of the refitting, Shea Stadium's exterior was painted blue and neon signs of baseball player silhouettes were added to the windscreens prior to the 1988 season. The original scoreboard was removed, and a new one installed in its place (fitting into the shell left behind by the old one), in 1988. Also at that time, the original (wooden) outfield wall was removed and replaced by a padded fence.

Banks of ramps that provided access from the ground to the upper levels were built around the outside circumference of the stadium. The ramps were not walled in and were visible from the outside. The ramps were originally partly covered with many rectangular panels in blue and orange (two of the team's colors). These panels can be seen in the 1970s movie The Wiz; it used the exterior pedestrian ramps for a motorcycle chase scene with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. The 1960s-style decorations were removed in 1980. The banks of ramps resulted in the outer wall of the stadium jutting out where the banks existed. In some of the recessed bays between the banks, huge neon lights formed the figures of baseball players.

The design also allowed for Shea Stadium to be expandable to 90,000 seats (by completely enclosing the grandstand), or to be later enclosed by a dome if warranted. In March 1965, a plan was formally announced to add a glass dome and add 15,000 seats. The Mets strongly objected to the proposal. The idea was dropped after engineering studies concluded that the stadium's foundation would be unable to support the weight of the dome.

Initially, the distances to the right and left field fences were each 341 feet (104 m). There was a horizontal orange line that decided where a batted ball was a home run or still in play. In 1978, Manager Joe Torre helped move the fences in to 338 feet (103 m) in the corners with a wall now in front of the original brick wall to help alleviate disputed calls.

Originally, all of the seats were wooden, with each level having a different color. The field boxes were yellow, the loge level seats were brown, the mezzanine seats were blue, and the upper deck seats were green. Each level above the field level was divided into box seats (below the portals) and reserved seats (above the portals). The box seats were of a darker shade than the reserved seats. The game ticket was the same color as the seat that it was for, and the signs in the lobby for that section were the same color as the seat and the ticket. Before the 1980 baseball season they were replaced with red (upper deck), green (mezzanine), blue (loge), and orange (field level) plastic seats.

Unlike the crosstown Yankee Stadium, Shea was built on an open field, so there was no need to have it conform to the surrounding streets.

Before Shea Stadium closed in 2008, it was the only stadium in the Major Leagues with orange foul poles. This tradition is carried on at Citi Field as the foul poles there are the same color.

After the Jets left Shea, the exterior of the stadium was painted blue and white, two of the Mets' team colors.

In 2003, large murals celebrating the Mets' two world championships were added, covering the two ends of the grandstand. The 1986 mural was removed after the 2006 season because of deterioration (the wall was re-painted solid blue, and a window was opened on the Mezzanine level where fans could view the progress of Citi Field), but the 1969 mural survived until the final game in 2008.

The scoreboard was topped by a representation of the New York Skyline, a prominent part of the team logo. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were kept unlit, with a red-white-and-blue ribbon placed over them. The scoreboard was demolished in October 2008, but the skyline was preserved and is now located in Citi Field's "Taste Of The City" food court behind the giant scoreboard in center field.

For the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the construction of Citi Field was visible beyond the left and center field walls of Shea.

From 1973-1979, fans could estimate the distance of home run balls, since there were several signs beyond the outfield wall giving the distance in feet from home plate, in addition to the nine markers within the field.

Read more about this topic:  Shea Stadium, Features

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