GAME DAY

There is so much more to our sta­di­ums than just sport­ing events. Read on!

Where New York - - Contents - By Rich Fisher

Whether com­pletely empty or packed with en­thu­si­as­tic fans, a renowned ath­letic arena breathes a life of its own, much like a fa­mous the­ater or his­tor­i­cal land­mark. There is an im­me­di­ate vibe upon en­try. The mem­o­ries pro­duce tin­gles of ex­cite­ment and nos­tal­gia; the ghosts of great­ness seem to call out.

OLD/NEW YAN­KEE STA­DIUM When the orig­i­nal Yan­kee Sta­dium opened in 1923, it was chris­tened the House That Ruth Built be­cause slug­ger Babe Ruth’s home-run prow­ess put enough cash in the cof­fers to con­struct it. In­nu­mer­able high­lights would fol­low in the ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece, which was the first sta­dium to fea­ture three decks of grand­stands. Over the years, it was iden­ti­fied by Mon­u­ment Park; the leg­endary fa­cade around the up­per deck; and pub­lic ad­dress an­nouncer Bob Shep­pard’s dis­tin­guished voice. When it closed in 2008, it had hosted 37 World Se­ries. It was home to Hall of Fame roy­alty Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMag­gio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Man­tle, and back­drop for iconic mo­ments such as Gehrig’s tear­ful farewell speech.

The Derek Jeter-led Yanks im­me­di­ately es­tab­lished a win­ning tra­di­tion in the new sta­dium by win­ning the 2009 World Se­ries. The up­dated ver­sion, built across the street from the orig­i­nal, main­tained much the same look, but with added ameni­ties. The Sta­dium also hosts the MLS New York City FC and col­lege foot­ball’s Pin­stripe Bowl.

SHEA STA­DIUM/CITI FIELD Open­ing in the shadow of the 1964 World’s Fair amid a new ex­cite­ment in Amer­ica, Shea Sta­dium re­flected a young Mets team that had played its first two years in the old Polo Grounds. The Bea­tles in­vaded one year lat-

er, and other leg­endary rock bands graced the Flush­ing Mead­ows palace, as well as Pope John Paul II. Shea de­buted on April 17, 1964 (the Mets lost to Pittsburgh, 4-3), fea­tur­ing 21 es­ca­la­tors and a gi­gan­tic out­field score­board that pro­vided in­for­ma­tion and en­ter­tain­ment. In 1981, a Big Ap­ple Top Hat in cen­ter­field be­gan sur­fac­ing af­ter each Mets homer. “The Amazin’” be­came home­town heroes when they won the World Se­ries in 1969, a year that had started with Joe Na­math and the Jets—an­other Shea ten­ant—shock­ing the world by win­ning Su­per Bowl III in Mi­ami. In 1975, the Mets, Jets, Gi­ants and Yanks played at Shea dur­ing Yan­kee Sta­dium’s ren­o­va­tion, mark­ing the only year two MLB and NFL teams ever shared the same sta­dium. Citi Field, a shrine to NYC National League base­ball, opened in 2009. Nu­mer­ous clubs and restau­rants, a food court and con­ces­sions pro­vide good eats and re­fresh­ments. .

WEST SIDE TEN­NIS CLUB/USTA BIL­LIE JEAN KING NATIONAL TEN­NIS CEN­TER

The US Open moved from Rhode Is­land to For­est Hill’s West Side Ten­nis Club in 1915. Af­ter mov­ing to Philadel­phia for three years, the Open re­turned in 1924 to a newly con­structed West Side Ten­nis Club, a 15,000-seat U-shaped sta­dium with grass courts. In 1978, the event moved to Flush­ing Mead­ows- Corona Park as the USTA National Ten­nis Cen­ter opened near Shea Sta­dium. It was re­named in 2006 to honor ten­nis great Bil­lie Jean King. The three­sta­dium com­plex in­cludes Arthur Ashe Sta­dium as the event’s main venue; there is also the Grand­stand, which seats 6,000. While the play­ing sur­face has changed from grass to clay to its cur­rent hard-court sta­tus, one con­stant has been out­stand­ing play. The 21st cen­tury has be­longed mainly to Venus and Ser­ena Wil­liams, sis­ters who each won two crowns be­tween 1999 and 2002, beat­ing each other in the fi­nals one time apiece. Ser­ena has won four more since, in­clud­ing three from 2012 to 2014.

MADISON SQUARE GAR­DEN

Sit­ting above the rail­road tracks of Penn Sta­tion, Madison Square Gar­den has seen it all. MSG, as it is called, has been known for years as the “mecca of bas­ket­ball,” and yet the his­toric first Ali-Fra­zier fight took place there in 1971 with Frank Si­na­tra shoot­ing ring­side pho­tos for Life mag­a­zine. Si­na­tra made his come­back “Main Event” tele­vised con­cert there in 1974, while such his­toric shows as Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s Con­cert for Bangladesh, the post-9/11 Con­cert for New York City and the Con­cert for Sandy Re­lief also took cen­ter stage. The New York Rangers, Rin­gling Brothers Cir­cus, West­min­ster Ken­nel Club Dog Show and four pres­i­den­tial con­ven­tions also called the Gar­den home, mak­ing it easy to see why it’s known as “The World’s Most Fa­mous Arena.” With its famed con­cave ceil­ing, the cur­rent struc­ture (the first was built in 1879) opened in 1968 at 4 Penn­syl­va­nia Plaza in Mid­town. In col­lege bas­ket­ball cir­cles, the Gar­den plays host to the St. John’s Red Storm, the NIT Fi­nal Four and the Big East Tour­na­ment. In the 1970 NBA fi­nals, a frozen-in-time mo­ment oc­curred when in­jured cap­tain Wil­lis Reed hob­bled from the locker room and made his first two shots in Game 7 as the Knicks beat the Lak­ers for their first NBA cham­pi­onship. The 1993 play­off se­ries with the Bulls pro­duced “The Dunk,” when John Starks threw down a fe­ro­cious left-handed slam over Michael Jor­dan and Ho­race Grant. The Knicks lost the 1994 fi­nals to Hous­ton in seven games as MSG be­came part of one of the most bizarre tele­vi­sion nights in Amer­i­can his­tory. As Game 5 un­folded, O. J. Simp­son went on his low-speed free­way chase with the Los An­ge­les police. NBC af­fil­i­ates be­gan run­ning split-screen cov­er­age of both the game and the chase tak­ing place 3,000 miles away.

The venues where New York ath­letes play are so much more than mere sta­di­ums, fields and courts.

Fac­ing page: The New York Yan­kees host the Bos­ton Red Sox at Yan­kee Sta­dium in May 2016. This page, from top: Ser­ena Wil­liams at the 2015 US Open at the USTA Bil­lie Jean King National Ten­nis Cen­ter; Citi Field; the Knicks’ court at Madison Square Gar­den.

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