So today Reuters reported that the Empire State Development Corporation has given preliminary approval for two new stadiums in town — ours, and one to be occupied by some random American League team. (Tip of the cap to Metsblog, where I saw it.) Our park's supposed to start rising in the spring and open for the 2009 season.
All well and good, but it leads me to a basic question I've felt compelled to ask too often in the last year: If there's a groundbreaking in a few months, where the heck are the plans? The renderings? The 3-D, CGI goodness that lets us fly through the park like crazed pigeons escaping death by engine intake? Down there on the left somewheres you'll find a link to New Shea, but it's old and out of date. Then there was that watercolor rendering of an Olympic stadium that would turn into our stadium, but nobody took it seriously, probably not even the mayor. Since then? Not a peep.
So what the heck's going on? Is there a stadium plan at all? Are the Mets keeping quiet to avoid a lot of hoorah from the no-public-money-for-stadiums jihadists? (They're entitled to their opinion, of course, but I can't help noticing that most stadium opponents around these parts don't have a problem with the government paying for a near-infinite number of other things. It's just sports they don't like.) C'mon fellas, it's January. There's nothing going on, unless you count signing another less-than-impressive-sounding Japanese reliever or wondering if Danny Graves is on the Mickey Lolich Diet. (Thank God it's the Indians' problem and not ours.) This is the hell of late January; some stadium pictures would be the perfect thing to get us through it.
In the absence of new park pictures, allow me to rattle on a bit about what I'd like to see.
1. Tradition: This is not the time to decide to think different. Last I heard HOK was the architect, and let's keep it that way. Let the people who claim to be bored by the new breed of ballparks spend an hour trudging up and down stalled Shea escalators and trying to identify the various rusted, piled-up and destroyed curiosities beyond the outfield fence. I would give my eyeteeth to be bored by a beautiful new ballpark. The new Met park doesn't have to be Ebbets Field — there's such a thing as being enslaved by tradition — but it sure as heck doesn't have to be trendy, edgy or any other thing that we'll regret in five years.
2. Shea Holdovers: Um, there's the home-run apple. And honestly, that's all I can think of. The only other thing I like about Shea is the marker for Tommie Agee's improbable home run into the left-field upper deck. Obviously we can't take that with us. Put a marker in the new parking lot where home plate was, put a flagpole where Agee's shot landed, pack up the apple and let's call it an era.
3. This Is Our Turf: You've summed up our annoyance at Snigh's apparent embarrassment to be known as the Mets Network better than I could — I'd rather watch Metography: Hank Webb than anything about the Knicks, Jets, St. John's or what have you. Let's not pull the same prudish act with our park. I want that stadium dripping with Metsiana, darn it.
4. Statues: Let's say we get five gates in the new park. How about a statue per gate, one more or less for each decade? Gate A is Casey Stengel. (Or possibly Gil Hodges.) Gate B is Tom Seaver. (Or bump him to Gate A and give it to Tug McGraw.) Gate C is Keith Hernandez. (Or maybe Gary Carter. Doc and Darryl's self-destructions, alas, have aced them out.) Gate D is Mike Piazza. Gate E? Let's leave an empty plinth there for kids to pose on in their Met gear until it becomes more clear. (I'm hoping for David Wright, but once I would have been holding it in reserve for Edgardo Alfonzo. You never know.)
5. The Wall: If you wear the orange and blue, you get your name engraved on the Wall, in chronological order divided by year. Fans would make rubbings. OK, I'd make rubbings. Still.
6. Markers: A new park is like a new house; nobody knows where anything is and nobody's figured out the spots that are comfy or legendary or tormented. That's OK, it'll come. But we can help it along: Put markers on seats for epic home runs, something even the spectacularly hideous Vet managed. (Because of course we'll have bleachers that can be entered without soda bottles on days besides Wednesdays, right?) I wanna see people pay hundreds extra on eBay to sit in the magic bleacher seat where Lastings Milledge's blast that won the World Series landed. I wanna see the knowledgeable fans demand that clueless newbies clear out of the accursed seat where Prince Fielder's drive ruined the playoffs. And so on.
7. Flags: And no, I don't mean a ring of American flags fluttering in a horseshoe somewhere up there between us and the approach vectors. Put them in order of the standings like they do at Wrigley — a good idea no one should be ashamed to borrow. We did this before Shea succumbed to patriotic overkill, but up there at the top of the stadium no one could tell. Make it so they can.
Is this too much to ask? Well, probably. Heck, between the statues and the Wall it's borderline demented. But you know what? Borderline demented is what you get when fans hear about a park in late January and don't get to see it.