Venue News: Mets Announce Citi Field Dimension Changes; St. Pete Times Forum Renamed

The New York Mets revealed dramatic dimension changes to Citi Field that should mean the home team belting more than 25 additional home runs in 2012. After Citi Field produced the third-fewest homers in the National League last season, Mets officials decided to reduce the in-play surface area by 2%, according to general manager Sandy Alderson. The playing surface beyond 300 feet from home plate is being reduced by 5%. The reconfigured outfield wall will be a uniform eight feet in height. Because the original left-field wall that measures 16 feet is structural and cannot be removed, a new wall will be built in front of the old wall. Two rows of seats will be added between the old and new walls in left-center, accommodating 100 people. In the extreme left-field corner, an orange line will be painted halfway up the wall, at eight feet, prompting umpires to need to determine whether a ball has cleared the line. In addition, to appease fans critical of the ballpark’s lack of recognition of the club’s history, the new wall will be blue…

… The St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, will be renamed the Tampa Bay Times Forum at the start of 2012. The announcement comes on the same day that the St. Petersburg Times — the newspaper that has had naming rights to the arena since 2002 — announced it will be known as the Tampa Bay Times starting January 1. Additionally, the owners of the team and newspaper jointly announced that the naming rights contract between the two has been extended through August 31, 2018. The arena was originally known as the Ice Palace when it opened in October 1996…

… The San Francisco 49ers have told Santa Clara officials to expect a financial plan soon for the team’s billion-dollar stadium, raising hopes for a groundbreaking on the project by late next year. The team appears so confident of coming up with the money that it wants to speed things up and shoot for a 2014 opening, instead of the current target of 2015. The real challenge, however, may come in January when the Niners expect to put about 60,000 seat licenses on sale; prices have not been set. According to a city councilwoman, Santa Clara hopes to approve the finances on the proposed stadium by the end of the year…

… The University of Oregon formally broke ground today on a new women’s soccer and lacrosse complex that will enhance the amenities available to the two women’s programs. The facility will provide seating for close to 900 spectators and is expected to be ready for use during the summer of 2012. The project will include a 12,000-square foot structure that will contain separate coaches’ offices and locker room suites for both programs, as well as a shared meeting/video room. Enhancing the student-athlete experience will be locker-room access in close proximity to the synthetic-turf playing surface. Amenities to the women’s first-class facility for spectators will include a pregame event village that will include ticketing, concessions, and restrooms.