The Mets yesterday unveiled the name of the new stadium they will be moving into in April 2009: CitiField. The Mets sold the naming rights to the park to Citigroup for a reported $20 million per year over twenty years.
In this day and age it has become commonplace for municipalities and clubs to sell off the naming rights of a brand new park (or even for an established stadium). I remember the outcry when Candlestick Park became 3Com Park back in the 1990s, which was one of the first parks to go that route. A poll taken said that 45% hated the name change, while the other 55% REALLY hated the change. Now when a park gets one of those names, most people don't think twice about it.
The New York papers today have two interesting takes on it. The New York Daily News is disappointed that the Mets didn't keep the name Shea Stadium for the new park. Many teams have done that, rename a new park after an old one. (The Cardinals comes to mind, having named their new place Busch Stadium, and this is the third one.) Other teams go the opposite route. The Phillies built their new ballpark next door to Veterans Stadium, but decided to go the route the Mets are going and sold the naming rights to Citizens Bank. But the White Sox did BOTH, building a new stadium called Comiskey Park in 1991, but later sold the naming rights to U.S. Cellular over a decade later.
But the New York Post is practically screaming bloody murder that the park wasn't named after Jackie Robinson. They've been going on about it for over a year, even writing editorials about it. (Note to Andrea Peyser: this is will NOT be the first ballpark named after a corporation in New York City. The Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees parks are both named for corporations.) It would have been nice to do that, but the Mets are honoring Robinson by naming a rotunda in the new park after him, and there will be a statue of him outside the stadium. And to think, Robinson had no connection to the Mets whatsoever. The breaking of the color line by a New York team was a momentous event in baseball, as well as American history. But there were also calls to name the park after Gil Hodges, the legendary Mets manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers hero. He was a true New Yorker, who made his home in Brooklyn (just 11 blocks from my house) after arriving with the Dodgers.
I looked at many of the Mets blogs this morning about this subject, and most of them seem OK with the Mets doing this. (You can check some of them out through my "Mets links" on the left side of this blog. BTW, my thanks to The Eddie Kranepool Society for the pic of CitiField I used in this post.) At one blog, there was poll of the Mets fans to see what they thought of the name "CitiField" and it was running about 52% in favor of it.
But let's face it folks. Money talks, and everything else walks. A $400 million payday was obviously too tempting to pass up. It would have been nice to name the park after Jackie Robinson or once again after Bill Shea. But in a city where the Mets are fighting with the Yankees for the hearts and minds of New York baseball fans (the casual ones mostly, let's face facts), this kind of money is too hard to resist.
I'm sure the Mets will honor not only their past legends like Hodges and Tom Seaver at the new place, but also many of the legends of New York National League baseball past from the Dodgers and New York Giants.
They want to call the park after a corporation like CitiGroup? So be it. So long as they have cleaner bathrooms than Shea, I won't mind it at all.