Citi Field, the 2-year-old home of the Mets, has received rave reviews from the NHL and appears to be inching closer to hosting a Winter Classic.
The Wilpon family, which owns the Mets and the 42,000-seat stadium, "has been extremely interested and aggressive" in bringing the annual New Year's Day outdoor game to Citi Field, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday.
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The Rangers, Islanders or both would play in a Citi Field game, either in 2011 or later.
NHL chief operating officer John Collins, a driving force behind the Classic who toured Citi Field recently, called it "a great ballpark and in many respects, as the commissioner said, the 100-year-old ballparks have charm, but there are challenges. Citi Field's got great sightlines, very vertical as opposed to some of the other baseball stadiums and ballparks we've looked at, so it's a great venue."
No decision has been made for January's game, Bettman said. "Without tipping my hand, some candidates seem to be at the head of the pack,'' he added. "The number of cities and teams who want it is a long list: Detroit, Minnesota, Colorado, just about every market."
Reports had surfaced that Pittsburgh's Heinz Field is a strong candidate to host the 2011 Classic, but the Steelers play home games Dec. 12, 19 and 23. That reduces time for rink construction and activities that were so successful at Fenway Park this season.
"What really added a lot was to be able to be in the market for four weeks," Collins said. "The college doubleheader, a Legends game, having corporate skates, the policemen versus the firemen, the community skates with the kids, it allowed hockey to energize the market in a way that even the momentum of a season couldn't do."