A sparkling new field of dreams is taking shape on the site of the old Yankee Stadium.
Workers have finished a new grass and dirt baseball field that is the centerpiece of a 10.78-acre, $51-million project named Heritage Field. It sits across E. 161st Street from the current Yankee Stadium and is scheduled to open in the fall.
By then, a new generation of kids hoping to be the next Ruth, Mantle or Jeter will be playing in the footsteps of Yankee legends. The new field is aligned with the torn-down stadium's footprint.
The full-sized field is the first of three that are being built on the site. By fall, city officials hope to have the baseball field, a Little League field and a softball field ready for use by residents of the South Bronx. The complex also will include a track and field area, a comfort station and a children's play area.
Ground was broken on the complex in June 2010 in a ceremony that included Yankees president Randy Levine, GM Brian Cashman and pitcher Joba Chamberlain. The fields are part of a larger project to replace 22 acres of parkland that were sacrificed to build the new Yankee Stadium. Heritage Field is the final stage of the $195-million project. It was originally supposed to open late last year.
"It's all coming together," Levine said. "Maybe a little later than on schedule, but it's always better to be good than just be early."
"All the credit in the world goes to Mayor [Bloomberg] and the Parks Department," Levine said. "It was them, not us, who were responsible for building the parks and getting them up and on line. They're fulfilling their promise."
Wednesday, about four hours before the Yankees hosted the White Sox across the street, automatic sprinklers were watering the baseball field and hard hats were working on the dirt cutouts for one of the other two fields.
Near the fields, dozens of people were using the basketball and handball courts and track facilities that have already been built atop a Stadium parking garage. That's near a Metro-North station that opened in 2009.
"A lot of great things are happening," said Farid Windley, 33, of the Bronx. "This area is going to be the bomb in another five or 10 years."
Said Levine: "This is going to be some of the most spectacular parkland in the city. It's very gratifying. We've done a lot -- we donated $10 million toward building the new parks -- so we're proud."
The old stadium was shrouded in black nylon during the Yankees' championship season of 2009 as it was carefully deconstructed. It was torn down in stages, with the final sections disappearing last April. The site was a mass of debris and rubble during the 2010 season.
Now, it's beginning to look like something special is growing there.
"Like everybody else, I had some trepidation and heartache watching the old stadium come down," Levine said. "But I was always optimistic that there would be ballfields so the kids of this city would be able to play on the same field as Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Jeter and A-Rod and all of the great Yankees. And that's pretty much what's happening."With Robert Cassidy