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A dome for Shea Stadium? It almost happened

Shea Stadium, once the home of the New York Mets and New York Jets, almost had a dome. Fueled by the soon-to-be-opened Astrodome in Houston, New York city officials became convinced, enclosing Shea and putting a roof on it would enable the city-run facility to be used 300 days of the year, rather than the 100 times it was utilized in its first year of existence in 1964.

NYC officials had dollar signs dancing in their heads, especially since the last place Mets drew 1,732,597 fans in their first season and the Jets averaged 42,000 per game in year one at Shea.  Put a roof on the joint and expand the capacity?  Imagine the cash-cow the city would have?  There was even talk of hosting post season football in the enclosed facility.

So convinced capping Shea would be a home run, Ben Finney, the city’s Commissioner of Sports, said the stadium could have a dome in place by the start of the 1966 baseball season and that it would only cost $6 million.  Finney made his recommendation on Mar. 17, 1965.  A parking garage beyond center field was also part of the plan.

The New York Times thought the proposal was a slam-dunk, Charles Bennett writing in the paper: “In sport’s circles last night it was expected that the proposed stadium improvement would be pushed through to reality, just as the stadium proper was after William A. Shea, the lawyer for whom the stadium was named, got behind it.”

Finney was so confident of the dome becoming a reality, he evened named an advisory committee than included among others, a then vice president of the New York Yankees, Dan Topping Jr.  Imagine.

I seemed everybody was on board for a roof at Shea, but alas, it was not to be. 

Would history have changed had the ballpark been given a hat?  Who knows?  Maybe on artificial turf, the ball doesn’t trickle through Bill Buckner’s legs and the Red Sox win that 1986 World Series.

Of course, Shea Stadium is no more, having been razed in 2008.  But its memories endure, leaving one to wonder how many more memories might there have been, if the New York politicos followed through on their dream.

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