To the left of Citi Field’s main entrance is a parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood.
In this parking lot, amid the white lines that now outline parking spaces, are four bronze plaques that mark the bases that made Shea’s diamond. A first base where Keith Hernandez and Ed Kranepool stood; second where Wally Backman darted back and forth; third base, where more than 120 have played the position, from Don Zimmer in 1962 to current all-star David Wright.Then a home plate 90 feet away from a bronze rectangle to outline where Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and many others would set team and MLB records.
This site will soon, however, become home to Willets West, a one-million-square-foot shopping area that promises to bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the area.
While there are no set plans how the bases, or Shea’s 44-year legacy, will be remembered, fans and developers agree there should be some sort of tribute to the ballpark.
Ron Dresner, who is the managing editor of The Very Unofficial Mets Fan Site, said development in the area is something he supported fully — noting that Willets Point has always been prime for that. At the same time, the lay of the land needs to also be considered, he said.
“You can still move ahead with economic development and neighborhood plans but customize the design according to your ‘landscape,’” he said.
“I am not a design or engineering professional, but any new plans must incorporate the memory and recognition of Shea Stadium – especially marking the base locations,” he continued. “The last thing I would want to see is some huge movie complex built right over the old Shea diamond.”
Speaking on behalf of the Queens Development Group, spokesperson Cristyne Nicholas said that as Willets West was in the earliest stages, there had not been a set-out plan to memorialize the former home of the Mets and Jets. The developers would, however, ensure that the would be some sort of tribute in the 200-store shopping area.
“Although Willets West is still in the early planning phase and the design layout has not yet been finalized, Shea Stadium and its historic contribution to Queens will be properly and proudly commemorated,” she said.
Dresner noted that in the past the team’s legacy has been put into question. In 2009 when Citi Field opened, he said the ballpark overemphasized its Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants roots with little to no memory of the stadium where the Mets won two World Series championships.