Yankee Stadium was empty on October 7. The home team’s season ended with a heartbreaking loss the night before. The ballpark on the other side of 161st street was empty too, but for an entirely different reason.
By most accounts, Heritage Field, the 11-acre complex of ball fields and playgrounds that sits on the site of the old Yankee Stadium, is finally ready to host its first pickup baseball and softball games. However, almost a year later than scheduled, the park is still closed.
“It’s looked finished for about two, three months,” said Paul McCaffrey, who was having lunch at Billy’s Sports Bar down the road from the field on 161st street. McCaffrey, who works nearby at HW Wilson in Highbridge and passes by the field most days, shrugged when asked why the park wasn’t open yet.
“I don’t know why it’s not ready,” McCaffrey said.
The city has long maintained that Heritage Field would open in fall 2011. But with the crisp October weather hitting the area and baseball’s playoffs in full swing, any Yankees fan knows that fall has already arrived.
When asked about the field, Parks spokesperson Zachary Felder said that everything is right on schedule, and that the department has not yet set an opening date.
The opening of the field cannot come soon enough for Bronx residents, who lost 22 acres of Macombs Dam Park space when construction began on the new Yankee Stadium in August 2006. According to the parks department website, Heritage Field was designed to return the lost space to the neighborhood as part of the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Program.
The new Macombs Dam Park features three ball fields — one in the footprint of the old Yankee stadium — as well as four basketball courts, fitness equipment, handball courts, a soccer and football field, a racetrack and a 600 seat grandstand. The track and soccer field, built on top of the Rupert Plaza parking garage, opened in April 2010.
The city originally promised that the ball fields would be ready by December 2010, but had to keep pushing the date back because it took far longer than promised for the Yankees to remove their old stadium. It wasn’t gone until May 2010, and the city held a groundbreaking ceremony for Heritage Field on June 2010.
How long the parks department takes to select an opening date will determine how much use the field will get. Baseball in a summer sport, after all, and the temperature will only go down from here.