10/03/2008 8:32 AM
October 3, 2008
It's really happening, Mets fans.
Shea Stadium is coming down, one thousand-watt lamp and one sink at a time. Centerfield's iconic 410-foot sign now lies in a fenced-in area outside the ballpark, along with other pieces of the outfield wall.
The rightfield section of the upper deck yesterday was a sea of gray concrete, where once there was a vast expanse of red seats. Home plate was nowhere to be seen.
Echoes of the stadium's glory days - the 1969 and 1986 World Series, the Beatles concerts in 1965 and 1966 - were faint yesterday, blown away by the swirling breezes so familiar to generations of fans.
Shea, the Mets' home since 1964, is now a deconstruction zone.
Less than 24 hours after the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, and after Mets greats Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza shut the centerfield gates at the end of closing ceremonies, 200 city workers and contractors showed up Monday morning to begin stripping the ballpark of lights, doors, toilets and circuit breakers. A company hired by the Mets began packing up signs, seats and the outfield wall to be sold as memorabilia.
"We didn't have time" to mope about the Mets' loss Sunday, said Anthony Rizzo, Shea Stadium coordinator for the city Parks Department, which manages the ballpark. "We had 200 people coming."
Yesterday workers removed a facsimile of the city skyline from the top of the giant outfield scoreboard. The skyline will be moved to Citi Field, the Mets' new ballpark being constructed in a Shea parking lot.
A crane, more than 150 feet high, carried baskets full of seats from the upper deck to the field, where they were placed in trailers to be shipped by S&S Seating of Troy, Ind., to a storage facility. The Mets are selling the seats for $869 a pair.
Good seats from the upper sections still are available - just as they often were during the Mets' losing seasons.
Salvage work at the old ballyard is running ahead of schedule, Rizzo said. About 50 percent of the work was complete by yesterday, he said.
The Mets and the city have until Oct. 13 to take what they can before demolition workers arrive.
Supervising the Shea salvage operation is Rizzo's last job at the stadium, where he has worked for 10 years, before he transfers to the parks department's technical services office on Randalls Island.
"It's bittersweet," said Rizzo, of Middle Village. "I'm getting back to more of a normal life, as opposed to four- or five-hour games, extra innings, working on weekends."
For the workers, Shea isn't just another workplace. Sal Sorrento, 39, of Whitestone, said his first workday at Shea was Sept. 11, 2001.
"I have worked here seven years," Sorrento said as he dismantled sections of the stadium's field lighting. "So it's sad to see it go down."