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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Shea Stadium

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Shea Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets, is one of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park’s most distinctive features. The stadium, located on the north end of the park at the edge of Flushing Bay, is named for William Alfred Shea (1907–1991). A partner in the law firm of Shea, Gallop, Climenko and Gould, Shea played a crucial role in helping to re-establish a National League presence in the City, after the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left for California.

In 1957, New York baseball fans were stung when both the Dodgers and Giants announced that they were leaving for Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Many New Yorkers alive during the era say that their interest in baseball waned after the teams’ sudden departure. To this day, the abrupt move endures as a symbol of disillusionment in American popular culture.

Shortly after the teams announced their intentions for the 1958 season, Mayor Robert F. Wagner (1910–1991) appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of establishing a new National League franchise in the City. The committee negotiated with Major League Baseball, and in 1962, New York secured a new National League team. During the push to bring a National League team back to the City, Shea distinguished himself through his dedication and persistence, and in 1964 the City Council voted to name the stadium in his honor.

The state-of-the-art facility opened on April 16, 1964. The opening was just in time for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, which attracted over 50 million visitors to the site during its two-season run. A harbinger of today’s multi-purpose stadiums, Shea was built to accommodate both baseball (55,601 capacity) and football (approximately 60,000 capacity), and in fact was the home to the New York Jets from 1967 to 1983, before the team moved to New Jersey. The seating configuration can be changed by mechanically rotating two blocks of 5,000 seats (the field boxes) over underground track, converting Shea’s expansive foul territory into football sidelines.

Parks officials boasted that the structure could be expanded to accommodate up to 80,000 fans for baseball and 85,000 for football without disturbing the original structure. Such alterations were never made and Shea’s unique three-quarter-circle “C” shape remains intact. The design, by the firm of Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbuty, was the first in which every seat’s line of sight was directed at the center of the field without visual obstruction. The design left open the possibility of adding a retractable roof. The stadium’s escalators, sloped ramps, concessions at each level, and a modern electronic scoreboard with a 24-foot rear projection screen were all cutting-edge features at the time.

The stadium was home to the New York Yankees in 1974 and 1975 while Yankee Stadium, also a Parks facility, was being renovated. In addition to its sports pedigree, Shea has hosted many major rock concerts, including the Beatles first stateside performance in 1965. Each year, Flushing Meadows draws over three million people from all over the world for spectator and recreational activities. Shea Stadium is one of the many attractions that make Flushing Meadows-Corona Park an indispensable resource for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world.

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