43 years ago today, a collection of New York dignitaries, Met officials and rabid baseball fans gathered in Flushing, Queens for a dedication ceremony in honor of the Mets new home, Shea Stadium.
By all accounts, it was a windy, rainy and cool April day, just like today. William A. Shea presided over the short ceremony to christen the stadium named in his honor, as recognition for all he did to help New York get back a National League baseball franchise.
During the event, Shea was given two bottles. One contained water from the Harlem River (representing the Polo Grounds), the other water from the Gowanus Canal (representing Ebbets Field). Shea poured the contents of both bottles over the infield. And Shea stadium was thus “christened.” with waters representing two doomed stadiums of former New York franchises
The building itself cost $28.5M to construct. The groundbreaking occured on Oct. 28, 1961, over six months after the NY Assembly had approved the bonds to build the 55,000 seat stadium. Construction delays and city politics postponed the opening until 1964.
Covering the opening ceremony for the New York Times, RW Apple Jr, wrote, “Shea Stadium, which was not completed in April, 1962, which was not completed in April, 1963, and which is still not completed in April, 1964, was dedicated anyway yesterday.”
The design for Shea Stadium was driven by “The Power Broker” himself, Robert Moses. According to Robert Caro’s famous biography, Moses modeled Shea as “a structure consciously shaped to resemble Rome’s Collosseum because he was afraid that his convention center-office tower ‘Coliseum’ didn’t make the comparison clear enough.”
Moses believed his buildings, parks and roads would survive for thousands of years – just as Rome’s architectural marvels still inspire today. Yet the midtown Coliseum is gone. And in less than two years, the great Shea Stadium will also be no more. Covered over by a parking lot and replaced with a smaller, more modest stadium built to honor the luxury box economy of modern baseball.