History and design
The Mets' inaugural season was played in the Polo Grounds, sharing with the then New York Titans, with original plans calling for them to move to a new stadium in 1963; however construction was delayed, and they played at the Polo Grounds a second season. It was originally to be called "Flushing Meadows Stadium" – similar to the name of the public park south of Shea – but a movement was launched to name it in honor of William A. Shea, the man who brought National League baseball back to New York. (Earlier, New York City official Robert Moses tried to interest Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley in this site as the location for a new Dodger stadium, but O'Malley refused, claiming that if the Dodgers played anywhere but Brooklyn, they would cease to be the Brooklyn Dodgers.) After 29 months and $28.5 million, Shea Stadium opened on April 17, 1964.
Seating pattern of Shea Stadium
Shea is a circular stadium, with the grandstand forming a perfect circle around the field and ending a short distance beyond the foul lines. The remainder of the perimeter is mostly empty space beyond the outfield fences. This space is occupied by the bullpens, scoreboards, and a section of bleachers beyond the left field fence. Shea was able be converted into a football stadium using two motor-operated stands that allow the field level seats to rotate on underground tracks. The stadium was originally designed to be expandable to 90,000 seats, simply by completely enclosing the grandstand. In late 1964, a plan was floated to add a dome and expand capacity to 71,000. This idea was dropped after studies concluded that the stadium's structure would be unable to support the weight of the dome; the area around the stadium is a swamp. Originally, all of the seats were wooden, with each level having a different color. They were replaced with orange, red, green, and blue plastic seats before the 1980 baseball season. The stadium is located close to LaGuardia Airport, and in recent years, flight patterns have been altered to alleviate the jet noise that plagued Shea for much of its existence. Previously, interruptions for planes flying overhead were common at Shea, and the noise was so loud that radio and television broadcasts couldn't be heard.
Home of the JetsDenver Broncos, on September 12, 1964. The Jets played at Shea for twenty seasons, from 1964 to 1983 (excluding one 1978 home game played at Giants Stadium. The stadium hosted three Jets playoff games: the American Football League Championship in 1968 (beat the Oakland Raiders, 27-23), an AFL Divisional Playoff in 1969 (lost 13-6 to the Kansas City Chiefs) and the 1981 AFC Wild Card Playoff game (lost 31-27 to the Buffalo Bills).
It was at Shea Stadium in 1973 that O.J. Simpson became the first running back to gain 2,000 yards in a single season (and, to date, the only player to do it in 14 games or less).
The New York Giants played their 1975 season at Shea while Giants Stadium was being built. The Giants were 5-9 that year. That year, Shea served as the home field for four teams: the Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants. The football field at Shea extended from around home plate all the way to the outfield, with the baseline seating rotating out to fill left and right fields. On December 9, 1979, as part of the halftime show of a game between the Jets and New England Patriots, a model airplane group put on a remote control airplane display. The grand finale was a red 40-pound lawnmower. Its blade flew into the stands hitting John Bowen of Nashua, New Hampshire. Bowen died six days later. On November 17, 1981, a $10 million damage suit was filed by the man’s father in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Named as defendants in the negligence suit were the New York Jets Football Club, the Radio Control Association of Greater New York, and the man who designed, built and furnished the model airplane. The game would go down in history as the Flying Lawnmower Game. The Mets used their status as Shea's primary tenants to force onerous lease conditions on the Jets. Until 1978, the Jets could not play their first home game until the Mets' season was finished. Even after 1978, the Mets used their status as Shea's primary tenants to force the Jets on long road trips. The stadium was also not well maintained in the 1970s. The Jets moved to Giants Stadium for the 1984 season, after the Mets pressured the city into offering lease terms similar to the pre-1978 conditions. Fans ripped Shea apart after the last game of the 1983 season. Even the scoreboard operator had a field day, displaying the home team as the "N.J. Jets". In the end, New York City could not compete with the additional 15,000+ seats Giants Stadium offered.Pittsburgh Steelers on December 10, 1983. The game marked the final appearance of Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who was 5-of-8 for 77 yards and two touchdowns during his brief stint. Earlier in the 1983 season, a Jets game against the Los Angeles Rams featured an 85-yard touchdown run by rookie Eric Dickerson, as well as a brawl between Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater and Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau when Slater blindsided Gastineau after the Jet performed his infamous "Sack Dance" over fallen Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo.
After the Jets
After the Jets left, Shea Stadium's exterior was painted blue, and neon signs of baseball player silhouettes were added to the windscreens between 1986 and 1988. On June 12, 2005, Mets officials announced plans to build a new Mets ballpark in the parking lot of Shea Stadium to be opened in time for the beginning of the 2009 baseball season, with ground breaking on November 13, 2006. The new ballpark's name comes from the Mets' agreement with the financial services company Citigroup Inc., a 20-year partnership that will be worth an average in excess of $20 million per year.
Shea Stadium will be dismantled, rather than imploded, in accordance with New York State law.