CONCOURSE — The city is considering renaming a popular public ballpark outside Yankee Stadium in honor of Mariano Rivera, the beloved Bronx Bomber who will retire after this season, according to a Parks Department employee.
Parks officials told Bronx staffers late last week to begin readying the park for a possible event in the coming days when the name of the $50.8 million ballpark would be changed from Heritage to Mariano Rivera Field, the employee said.
On Monday, the employee said the possible name change did not appear finalized, but that the Bronx Parks staff was continuing to plan for an event this week since the Yankees play their final home game on Thursday.
“We’re preparing as if this is going to happen,” the employee said.
Parks Department spokesman Zachary Feder said Monday, “I can’t confirm anything on that.” The Yankees declined to comment.
The possible honor follows a lavish 50-minute fete Sunday at the stadium for Rivera, baseball’s all-time saves leader, which included a live performance by the rock band Metallica, the retiring of his jersey number, 42, a $100,000 gift to his foundation and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s declaration of the date as “Mariano Rivera Day.”
It also comes after some media outlets publicized a petition to honor Rivera — who is winding down a 19-year pitching career with the Yankees — by adding an “a” at the end of River Avenue streets signs outside Yankee Stadium.
The city could find it simpler to rename the park than the avenue, since co-naming an entire street requires the honoree to be deceased. That rule does not apply when renaming a single block.
The nearly 11-acre Heritage Field, which opened in 2012 after a yearlong delay, is the largest of several new and renovated parks the city created to replace two that were demolished in 2006, despite much local opposition, to make way for the Yankees’ new stadium.
Heritage Field’s three natural-grass ball fields — including one that sits in the old stadium's footprint — have been hugely popular. About 25 baseball and softball teams applied for playing time during the park’s opening season.
Any park-renaming proposal appears to have originated outside The Bronx — no borough officials who were contacted said they had heard of the plan.
But some who were told of the possible name change welcomed it, including Cary Goodman, head of the 161st Street Business Improvement District, who said that Heritage Field is packed with tributes to Yankees legends, but not Rivera.
“There’s absolutely no indication in that park whatsoever that that man even exists,” he said, adding that the borough could also use more tributes to Hispanic greats.
Killian Jordan, a local resident, said she had heard talk of the possible renaming and thought it was a “splendid idea.”
She suggested that if the honor was bestowed on Rivera, his foundation might help fund the park’s upkeep, which could boost the perpetually cash-strapped Parks Department.
“To have an extra source of tender love and care for that really lovely ball field would be a boon to the whole community,” she said.
But Naomi Gandia, president of the Mariano Rivera Foundation, said Friday that she had not yet been told about any renaming and so couldn’t discuss possible donations.
Still, she called the possible gesture “lovely” — though she was quick to add that the famously humble Rivera had no renaming expectations.
“He probably would be honored,” she said. “But it’s not something that he looks for.”