E. 161st Street B.I.D. celebrates opening day

Opening weekend at Yankee Stadium saw the home team taking two out of three games against the Detroit Tigers, but good times were celebrated outside of the ballpark as well.

Beginning on Thursday, March 31 and continuing through Sunday, April 3, the E. 161st Street Business Improvement District celebrated the opening of the ball park for the 2011 baseball season by getting local residents enthusiastic about opening day, and enticing visitors to the stadium to venture beyond the ballpark.

Not even inclement weather during part of the four days dampened the spirits of the musical performers who encouraged people to sing along to baseball standards like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Former New York Yankee Roy White and former Negro Leaguer Jim Robinson were also on hand to sign autographs, as well as a troupe of jugglers and acrobats to entertain those going to the games and those simply taking a walk by the stadium.

“There is a palpable excitement in the air, and if you walk around River Avenue, people are smiling,” said Dr. Cary Goodman, the executive director of the E. 161st Street B.I.D. “It might be something to do with the long winter being over, but I think there is a longing for the baseball season to begin.”

Goodman feels that the celebration should extend beyond the confines of the stadium into the surrounding community, and he wants to entice visitors to come not only to the stadium, but to shop and take in sights in and around E. 161st Street and River Avenue.

“It is important not just to celebrate the Yankees, but to knit the Yankees to the fabric of the neighborhood,” Goodman said. “With all the controversy that has come out with the move of the stadium, we think having Roy White come and meet with little leagues players and sign autographs for fans can help to merge people who come to the ballpark together with the community.”

Several Bronx little leagues were invited to Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run competition held in Mullaly Park on Saturday, April 2, and there was an exhibit of Negro Leagues artifacts at the Bronx Museum of the Arts that fans could easily access via the Bronx Cultural Trolley.

As part of an overall plan, Goodman is working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to bring a first-class hotel to the stadium area.

He also said he may approach the Baseball Hall of Fame about creating a branch of the hall with interactive exhibits for the 4,000,000 visitors that come to Yankee Stadium every year, as well as the tens of thousands of people who live in the Highbridge community.

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