In a little over a year, Yankee Stadium, the original House that Ruth Built, will be just a memory in the Bronx. Already, fans can see the dismantling of the stadium as they head on up to the new park in the Bronx, and in 2011, Heritage Park will bring greenery to the Bronx.
While the Yankees and the City have not shed many tears over the impending destruction of a baseball icon, a good number of fans are upset that the team has been so willing to discard such an important part of its past. To that end, a group of fans and baseball buffs have started a grassroots movement to Save Gate 2 and use it as a symbolic entrance to Heritage Park.
Last week, I spoke with Mark Costello, one of the leaders of the movement, and he walked me through the plans. In essence, the Yankees and the City would be saving a piece of the old stadium as well as the original ticket booths along 161st St. as a nod to history. Gate 2 is the old entrance to the left field area, and as the group’s website shows, it would not take much work to restore a part of the old stadium to the grandeur it once had. “It’s probably the coolest thing left from the old Stadium,” Costello said.
The group is drawing its inspiration from successful preservation projects around the nation. In Detroit, advocates saved a good portion of old Tiger Stadium. In Pittsburgh, parts of the original wall of Forbes Field remain in place. With a new park planned for the space, Costello believes the old gate would make for an appropriate and magnificent entrance.
Recently, Costello presented his plan to the Bronx’s Community Board 4 and the Parks Department. He said that board members seemed favorable to the proposal but recognizes the uphill battle he faces. “Time is of the essence,” he said to me when I noted the ongoing destruction of the old stadium.
Despite the time crunch, Costello and his supporters feel that Gate 2 could be left up with relative ease. One of the supporting walls is still in place, and the other could be easily constructed. Furthermore, since construction crews have yet to reach that side of the stadium, it’s certainly not too late to begin a preservation campaign.
For now, the group is focusing on grassroots efforts. “We’re trying to get out the word as best we can,” Costello said, “and we’re hoping to get the attention of the city government.”
Costello has yet to approach the Yankees. He fears the team will view this effort as taking away from the new stadium but will try to get the team on board when the time is right. ‘We’re not trying to have something that will compete with what they built,” he said, “but will enhance the experience.”
In the end, the group of fans who want to remember the past fear for the future. In a city that does a bad job of retaining and remember its past, the Yankees should go down the same path. “Future fans,” Costello said, “will regret that they missed the opportunity to do something meaningful.”