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Heritage Field opens on old Yankee Stadium site

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Heritage Field plaque

It took a little longer than anticipated, but the promised public park and ballfields at the site of the old Yankee Stadium has opened, mostly to rave reviews from the players on the field.

When New York City worked out a deal for the new Yankee Stadium, a provision called for the old ballpark site to be turned into a public park. Though preservationists worked to keep much of the old ballpark around, they lost the battle -- but may have won the war, as several parks of the old ballpark remain. From The New York Times:

Heritage Field is the last piece in the city’s seven-year struggle to replace the parkland used for the new stadium, capping a $195.6 million parks project that was among the most expensive in the city’s history. Today, despite doubts among local residents, a patchwork of eight new or renovated parks has sprung up around the stadium.

Indeed, the city splurged for $1.2 million in commemorative touches to enhance Heritage Field, including $450,000 for a 12-ton chunk of the old Yankee Stadium frieze that has been preserved like the Berlin Wall in one corner. Another stadium relic — a 130-foot-high chimney shaped like a baseball bat — cost $120,000 to refurbish, though it no longer serves a purpose other than as a local landmark....

All around were reminders of the history of the site, like a wall plaque commemorating Lou Gehrig’s 1939 “luckiest man” speech and a pair of ticket-shaped granite benches recalling the week in June 1990 when Nelson Mandela declared himself a Yankee and Billy Joel rocked the stadium. Pavement stones have been etched with historic dates, and a custom-made viewfinder loaded with photos of the past.

Though there's some debate as to whether the 1974-1975 work on the ballpark was a renovation or a rebuilding, both versions of the original Yankee Stadium used the same playing field. That playing field is intact, joined by two other playing fields. It's a thrill for anyone to set foot on the same field where Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio played, where Lou Gehrig gave his famous farewell speech, and where the Yankees rolled to the most championships in baseball.

Photo via flickr, released under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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