The Mayor who claims to have brought crime down to 1960’s levels apparently is so enamored of that turbulent decade he is revisiting one of its worst architectural signatures: The multi-purpose domed sports stadium, capable of housing baseball and football games, steel-cage smackdowns, political conventions and the occasional tractor pull.
Unaware, perhaps, that the bush-league cities that built these artless monstrosities are consigning them to the wrecker’s ball with a startling lack of sentimentality, Rudolph Giuliani wants to build a domed, multi-purpose stadium on the West Side. He wants football’s Jets to play there. He wants baseball’s Yankees to play there. He wants the world to play there in 2012, when the boys and girls of the Summer Olympics are scheduled to disrupt some as-yet-unchosen city. The Mayor and other powerful interests in New York, oddly insecure in their city’s standing as the financial capital of the world, seem to think that hosting the Olympics a dozen years from now would, well, you know, boost the city’s image, encourage tourism, inspire hometown pride, etc. Luckily for all concerned, Mr. Giuliani will be cashing Social Security checks in 2012, otherwise we might have the spectacle of the Mayor chewing out synchronized swimmers from the Palestinian Authority.
Actually, we have other reasons to give thanks for the term limits that have made Mr. Giuliani a lame duck. There is no telling where the Mayor’s stadium mania might have taken him, were he granted another four years at City Hall. He already is building two perfectly useless minor-league baseball stadiums on Staten Island and in Brooklyn, at a cost of more than $100 million in taxpayer funds. The Mets have been agitating for a new stadium in Queens. And the Yankees, a team whose jackets, caps and other paraphernalia Mr. Giuliani proudly wears like some jock-besotted adolescent, are forever grumbling about their legendary stadium. Then, of course, there are the Knicks and the Rangers, whose facilities above Penn Station reek of the same 1960’s sensibility that is in such disrepute in sporting circles. The Mayor has spoken of building a new playpen for them, too. Given another four years, the Mayor would have converted New York into the sports construction capital of the universe, and swatted away critics who pointed to deteriorating public schools and that sort of thing.
Asked at a press conference about West Side residents and others who are marshaling opposition to the dome scheme, the Mayor let loose with that familiar cackle of contempt and denounced the critics with his customary personal attacks: They oppose everything, he whined. They were against everything I’ve done. Yeah, yeah-in keeping with the Mayor’s style, let’s add a homonym to this argument: The Mayor is both a bore and a boor. His brutal characterizations of critics have become tiresome in the extreme, and it is worth noting that those critics happen to be concerned New Yorkers who are skeptical of nothing less than a billion-dollar white elephant. Such diligence on behalf of the public treasury deserves more than just a curt Mayoral dismissal.
Besides, included among the critics and skeptics are not, as the Mayor would have the public believe, just soft-headed West Side liberals (who live in a neighborhood that, er, supported the Mayor in 1997). The greatest opposition to the Rudy Dome will come from salt-of-the-earth sports fans, whose enthusiasm for multi-purpose indoor stadiums is a matter of public record. That’s why Seattle blew up its atrocious Kingdome, former home of baseball’s Mariners and football’s Seahawks, and why Houston abandoned its onetime wonder of the world, the Astrodome, which sullenly housed baseball’s Astros and football’s Oilers. Cincinnati built a cookie-cutter outdoor multi-purpose stadium about 30 years ago; it will soon belong to the ages, as will Philadelphia’s dreary Veterans Stadium. The former St. Louis Cardinals football team moved to Arizona rather than continue to share Busch Stadium with baseball’s Cardinals. And St. Louis promptly lured football’s Rams to the city by building them a brand-new, football-only stadium. (Yes, it’s a dome. There’s no accounting for taste out there in the hinterlands.)
Football fans don’t like watching games from seats whose sight lines are designed for baseball fans. That’s why Cincinnati’s rotten Bengals, who play eight home games a year, no longer have to share a home with baseball’s Reds. Baseball fans don’t like their green outfields besmirched with yard-line markers when their team is in the fall playoff hunt. In fact, nobody in sports likes sharing stadiums. Jets fans have yet to come to terms with the sad fact that they play in a stadium named for the rival Giants. Their spirits (and they are a spirited bunch, those Jets fans) would not improve much if the team moved from one shared facility to another.
When the Fresh Kills landfill closes in a year or so, the blueprints for Rudy’s dome will be among the dump’s last deposits.