by Andrea M. Meek
and Lee Nelson
click images to enlarge
Brooklyn baseball fans love having baseball back in the neighborhood and reward KeySpan Park and the Brooklyn Cyclones with sold out games at their Coney Island ball park.
KeySpan Park, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones, opened in June 2001. Located on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, it was built on the old site of Steeplechase Park, an amusement park that closed in the 1960's.
With neon lights, a boardwalk connecting the infield and outfield seats, and the Atlantic Ocean visible over the right field fence, the stadium, designed by Jack Gordon, evokes the history of the area.
The concession stands at KeySpan Park serve a variety of refreshments, including Nathan's famous hotdogs.
The park was paid for with public money, but the park's naming rights were sold to the utility company KeySpan Energy.
The Brooklyn Cyclones, named after the famous Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, are Brooklyn's first professional baseball team since 1957, when the Dodgers left Ebbets Field for Los Angeles.
A sculpture at the park commemorates a turning point in baseball history when then Brooklyn Dodgers team captain Harold Henry "Pee Wee" Reese showed his support for Jackie Robinson, the first Major League black baseball player, while Robinson was being heckled during a game at the Cincinnati Reds ball park.
The Cyclones, who are affiliated with the New York Mets, are a minor league baseball team in the New York - Penn League.
The team began as the Ontario-based St. Catharines Stompers in 1986 and was sold in 1995, bought out by local investors. In 1999, the team was bought and relocated to Brooklyn.
The team played the 2000 season in Queens and at the time were known as the Kings of Queens. When the team was set to move to its new home in 2001, a naming contest was held, and the team was christened the Cyclones.
The ballpark's scoreboard features a silhouette of the Cyclone roller coaster in honor of the home team.
KeySpan Park (now MCU Park) opened with a capacity of 6,500, but the Cyclones were so popular that additional seats were added only three weeks after opening day. The Cyclones continue to attract large crowds and sell out KeySpan Park.
Fans in the bleachers can see Astroland beyond the scoreboard and left field fence. At night the blinking lights of the Coney Island amusement park are particularly impressive. The Atlantic Ocean is visible beyond the right field fence.
Keyspan Park has also been a successful venue for concerts.
The land KeySpan Park sits on was once an amusement park known as Steeplechase Park. The parachute jump ride tower is all that remains of several innovative attractions that included both a mechanical horse race, which gave the park its name, and a very popular Ferris wheel.
Created by George C. Tilyou in 1897 the park lasted through three fires and was finally closed for good in 1964.
Fred Trump (Donald Trump's father) purchased Steeplechase Park in 1965 with plans to build a low cost housing development but was unable to get appropriate zoning law changes and sold the property to New York City in 1968.
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