SBD/Issue 145/Facilities & Venues

Honoring A Hero: Mets Dedicate Jackie Robinson Rotunda

State Officials, Rachel Robinson Take Part
In Dedication Of Jackie Robinson Rotunda
The Mets, MLB and the Jackie Robinson Foundation yesterday held a ceremony at Citi Field to dedicate the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, an 18,770-square-foot gathering space at the ballpark designed to celebrate Robinson's life and values. Among those attending were New York Gov. David Paterson, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy. “This rotunda is so grand, so beautiful,” said Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow and Founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “This is not just a physical space, but one with so many memories and messages. It’s really kind of a spiritual thing.” The dedication ceremony formed the core of MLB’s various commemorations yesterday, which also included every player, coach and umpire wearing Robinson’s retired No. 42, as well as an event in Harlem in which MLB announced a junior version of its existing Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program that will be designed for kids aged 6-12. A frequent theme during the dedication ceremony was Robinson breaking MLB's color barrier predating other major episodes in the Civil Rights struggle, including Brown vs. The Board of Education, Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus, and protests organized by Martin Luther King Jr. (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal).

BEFITTING A LEGEND: In N.Y., George Vecsey writes the rotunda is a "powerful tribute to the first African-American major leaguer of the 20th century," and is a "highly visible reminder of a man who made history 62 years ago by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers." Mets Owner Fred Wilpon: "This is a forever place. The entrance to our home" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/16). MLB.com's Anthony DiComo wrote the rotunda is "beautiful" and is the "jewel of Citi Field." When Wilpon built the rotunda, he "wanted it to become a perpetual reminder of all that Robinson did for the game." DuPuy: "It is appropriate that this rotunda -- open, living inclusive, a sport where all fans can come and congregate -- is a fitting tribute to the player who made us realize that baseball, too, can be inclusive." But DiComo noted while the percentage of MLB players that are African-American has reached 10.2%, the levels "are not where baseball wants them to be" (MLB.com, 4/15).

Howard Addresses Some Of
Fans' Complaints Of Citi Field
OPENING THE COMPLAINT BOX: Mets Exec VP/Business Operations Dave Howard appeared on WFAN-AM’s “Mike Francesa” Tuesday and addressed several complaints WFAN’s Mike Francesa claimed fans had toward Citi Field. Francesa noted some fans believe the Mets “made an homage to the Dodgers and not to the Mets" with the park, but Howard said, “This is no homage to the Dodgers. It is a classic ballpark that is inspired by Ebbets Field.” Francesa noted fans were also complaining about the obstructed views, claiming that made up 60-70% of phone calls the show received on Tuesday. Howard said, “It is not obstructed. The way we categorize obstructed is if you have an obstruction, something in front of you: a beam, a pillar, something blocking your view. That’s not the case here. It’s a function of the geometry of the building and it is a conscious decision that we made … that we wanted people to be lower and closer to the field and have great views" ("Mike Francesa," YES Network, 4/14). SI.com's Jon Heyman listed positive attributes of Citi Field, and among them is the ballpark's "intimate feel." Heyman: "If anything, 41,000 might be a tad small in such a big city." Another is the "overhang in right field," which "doesn't have quite the stateliness of old Tiger Stadium (which served as inspiration), but if you're out in right you can see just how pronounced it is" (SI.com, 4/15).

STRONG CONCESSIONS: Howard said Citi Field has been “setting records -- not just Mets records, but records for Aramark -- in terms of business that we’ve done.” Howard: “There’s no question that this ballpark, especially with regard to the infrastructure and the way that we’ve designed the food & beverage and merchandise layout, has responded very well.” However, he added the team “did have some food service challenges (Monday) that we will work through” (“Mike Francesa,” YES Network, 4/14).

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