Citi Field, the home of the Mets that just opened for its second season, has received rave reviews by the NHL, and may be inching closer to becoming the host of 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 today
NHL COO John Collins, a driving force behind the Classic who toured Citi Field recently with Don Renzulli, the league's director of special events who was involved in 10 Super Bowls with the NFL, called it “a great ballpark and in many respects, as the commissioner said, the 100-year-old ballparks have charm, but there are challenges. Citifield'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."
"We haven’t made a decision for next year. Nobody's been ruled in or out," said Bettman. "Without tipping my hand, some candidates seem to be at the head of the pack. The number of cities and teams who want it is a long list:
Reports had surfaced that
“We had 310,000 people on a wait list for a 38,000-seat stadium...so what really added a lot was to be able to be in the market for four weeks,” said Collins. “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.”
Bettman also confirmed today that plans were underway to stage an outdoor game in
Yankee Stadium, which is under contract to host a college football bowl game between Christmas and New Year’s Day for the next five years, had been a leading candidate for a Winter Classic, but is out of the running.
"The game counts and the points matter and if you follow our competitive balance and you see how close the races are to make the playoffs, we’ve got to make sure all our games are played under appropriate competitive conditions," Bettman said. "Fifty degrees makes the ice a little challenging, we’ve got to worry about somebody blowing out a knee."
The league has to assure that "somebody doesn’t look back and say, ' If we played that game under good conditions, maybe we would have made the playoffs." Weather patterns and precipitation over 40 years are studied. Nonetheless, said Bettman, "we’ll do this enough where I guarantee you, at one point, we’re going to have a weather problem. Just because you can’t play with Mother Nature non-stop."