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No doubt they’ll be a scramble with last minute details, but close to two years from now baseball in New York will be transformed almost as much as it was by the departure of the Dodgers and Giants in 1958.  Two icons of New York baseball, Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium will be replaced by new ballparks in time for Opening Day 2009.

Just beyond left field at Shea, a skeletal framework has appeared and it seems to climb higher and higher into the sky with each passing day. To Mets fans it’s a welcome sight.  The park, which is to be called Citi Field, will replace Shea Stadium, which has deteriorated over the years into what may be the worst park in Major League Baseball.

In saying goodbye to Shea Stadium baseball reaches a new height.  The end of the multi-use stadium is finally in sight and only one of the domed stadiums built to handle multiple sports and concerts will still remain.  Incorrectly dubbed by some as a “cookie cutter” stadium, Shea has played host to baseball, football, concerts and more in its 43 year old history.  It was home for the two Mets’ World Series Champions in 1969 and 1986 and in the 1970’s it even served as home to the New York Yankees while renovations to Yankees Stadiums were carried out.

No doubt William Shea (after whom the current stadium is named) will be remembered within its walls as part of a distinctive memorial to bygone greats in team history.  In fact the new Citi Park will be a tribute to baseball, and New York baseball in particular.  Not surprisingly this will be a retro styled ballpark, designed by HOK, the firm that has designed nearly every new ballpark since the opening of Camden Yards back in 1992. 

Judging from the pictures, mock ups and designs this one is a real tribute to both the Polo Ground and Ebbets Field. It appears that it will have a lot of similarities to those parks as well as tributes with a Grand Rotunda dedicated to Dodgers’ great Jackie Robinson, an area behind home plate to be known as the Ebbets Club and a section that will be known as Coogan’s Landing (a tribute to the piece of land where the Polo Grounds once stood).

And while the new Citi Field will have Ebbets Field as an inspiration, the Yankees will take their cue from the original “House that Ruth Built.”  The ballpark which at the moment is still being called the New Yankee Stadium (although that isn’t set in stone since the Yankees are considering selling naming rights ala: Yankee Stadium at Corporate Name Park) will look like a much modernized version of the current stadium.

There will be plenty of familiar features - including a replica of the current facade, a monument park, statues, and maybe even the giant bat outside (which in reality is a vent for the stadium boilers) and even a re-creation of the copper frieze that sat above the facade until 1973. While the Yankees are reaching into their past for inspiration on the exterior details of the park, the interior is reaching towards their future.

This will be a very modern park with modern amenities, better lines of sight and it will bring the fans closer to the game than the current stadium does.  In that aspect, the fans will win.  But even with the improvements, you’ll find far fewer Yankees fans looking forward to their new stadium than Mets fans that are looking forward to Citi Field.

That’s because the Yankees have a fabled history - going back to 1901, when they were known as the Baltimore Orioles before becoming the New York Highlanders before becoming the Yankees. Yankee Stadium will have been their home for eighty-five years by the time the 2008 season comes to a close. 

The Stadium has seen the Yankees ride to 26 World Championship Teams, 37 pennants and 44 playoff appearances.  That’s not a history that Yankees fans are inclined to forget - nor is the original stadium in the Bronx, which is still a great baseball venue but whose facilities have been outgrown by the throngs of fans who come out for every game.

No doubt it will take some getting used to but New York fans will appreciate their new venues, both of which will possess enough echoes of the past when it comes to New York’s greatest baseball moments.  For local fans it will be a transformation as great as any in the history of the game and it will provide a platform for baseball to spring into the future.