While Shea Stadium is best known as the place where the New York Mets recorded World Series-clinching wins in 1969 and 1986, it was also host to some of the most memorable concerts in history.
In 1965, the Beatles played perhaps their greatest show ever when they performed in front of more than 55,000 fans at the two-year old facility. Chart-topping acts such as The Clash, The Police, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen played at Shea over the next four decades, and in July 2008, Beatles bassist Paul McCartney closed Shea — at least musically — when he sang “Let It Be” during the final encore of Billy Joel’s second “Last Play At Shea” concert.
The Mets’ new home, Citi Field, picked up where Shea left off — literally: McCartney played the first three shows at Citi Field in July 2009. But Citi Field will add a new wrinkle to the intertwined history of the Mets and music beginning tonight, June 15, when REO Speedwagon performs following the Mets’ game against he Cincinnati Reds.
The concert is the first of three scheduled post-game shows at Citi Field this season. Daughtry, the band fronted by American Idol finalist Chris Daughtry, will perform after the Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers game Friday, July 20 while the Christian rock band MercyMe takes the field following the Mets-Atlanta Braves game Friday, August 10.
At first glance, the Mets aren’t a likely candidate to host post-game concerts. Most Major League Baseball teams that offer music after the final out are located in smaller markets and have difficulty drawing fans to the park. The Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins, all of whom finished eighth or lower in their respective leagues in attendance last season, are among the teams featuring post-game concerts in 2012.
The Marlins and Rays, the only two Major League Baseball teams located in Florida, have each hosted post-game concerts for several years and view it as a vital component of building and maintaining relationships with fans who might otherwise not attend a game.
“Somebody may not be interested in a baseball game, but if they come out and see Trace Adkins and have a great time watching the ballgame, then we can grab them as long-term fans,” Rays vice president of marketing and community relations Tom Hoof told Reuters in 2008, when the Rays increased their post-game concert offerings from two to eight.
The Mets, of course, play in the biggest market of all and are just four seasons removed from welcoming more than four million fans to Shea during their final season at the facility. But the Mets draw has been similar to a small-market team the last two-plus seasons at Citi Field.
After averaging 39,119 fans per game at the 41,922-seat stadium during its first season in 2009, the Mets’ average dipped to 31,602 in 2010 and 29,045 in 2011 as the team struggled on the field (last year was the Mets’ third straight losing season) and ownership was linked to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal.
The descent has continued this season for the Mets, who have averaged 26,573 fans in their first 31 home dates. But with the Mets surprisingly surging into contention (they began play today at 35-29 and leading the race for the second wild card) and the fanbase galvanized by Johan Santana throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history two weeks ago, management is hopeful attendance will increase throughout the summer.
Perhaps tonight is the start of an attendance surge for the Mets, who are fresh off sweeping the Rays in Tampa Bay. They may also benefit from a bit of fortunate timing with REO Speedwagon’s appearance: The band’s no. 1 hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is prominently featured in the ’80s-themed musical “Rock of Ages,” which also opens in movie theatres today.