It took more than two years to construct Citi Field, but planning for the replacement for Shea Stadium was more than a decade in the making. There were several different versions of the place before settling on the structure the Mets call home today.
In 1998, the Mets took advantage of then-Mayor Giuliani’s stadium-building fetish and unveiled a model and drawings of the proposed new ballpark. The facade was always going to be a replica of Fred Wilpon’s beloved Ebbets Field, but the original stadium had a retractable dome.
The park also featured a field that could be rolled out into the parking lot (inset, below) so any other events at the stadium would not damage the field. Also, in cold or wet weather, the field could be rolled out to get some much-needed rain and sun while the stadium could remain warm and dry.
Financing was put in place for the new ballpark (as well as a new Yankee Stadium) just before Giuliani left office. But 9/11 happened and the city’s priorities changed. Plus, new Mayor Bloomberg was not as much a baseball fan as Giuliani and was happy to cancel the deals.
Bloomberg suddenly became a fan of a new Mets stadium in 2005 when the city’s bid for the 2012 Olympics was in danger. Just a month before the IOC was set to pick a city, the state legislature put the kibosh on the deal to build an Olympic stadium (which would later house the Jets) on the West Side rail yards.
As an alternative, Bloomberg proposed building a new Mets stadium which would be expanded for the Olympics. This is what it would have looked like, courtesy of StadiumPage.com:
The stadium would have still opened in 2009, but with temporary outfield stands. The Mets would have played at Yankee Stadium in 2012 while the city expanded Citi Field for the Olympics. Then it would have been put back into what we have today. The IOC was dubious and New York was eliminated in the first round.
Despite all of those failures, Citi Field was still built. It isn’t perfect, but it certainly beats old Shea.