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 CNS Story:

STADIUM-SCENE Apr-21-2008 (560 words) xxxn

Even hidden areas at 'cathedral of baseball' transformed for Mass

By Beth Griffin
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The "house that Ruth built" is known to the fans as the "cathedral of baseball."

But Yankee Stadium really did look like a cathedral for the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI April 20, with most of the advertising and references to its primary purpose tastefully obscured with white, black, blue, purple and gold fabric and bunting.

Few would deny that the altar and alfresco sanctuary areas were as splendid as those in more permanent church structures.

But the transformation from American League ballpark to world-class worship space was perhaps at its most startlingly complete underneath the stadium.

The umpires' room, generally noteworthy only for its stark functionality, was turned into a lounge and vesting area for the pontiff. Daryl Latter of Full Production Services in Los Angeles orchestrated the makeover.

She covered the concrete block walls with draped lengths of alternating gold, white and subtly patterned fabric, and carpeted the floor with a beige rug. "I wanted something that was appropriate, but not overstated," she said in an interview with Catholic News Service after the Mass.

The lounge area held a couch, leather chair and end tables with lamps and was dominated by a life-size plaster-cast crucifix on loan from an artist in New Jersey.

The bathroom was more of a challenge, said Latter, because the existing fixtures did not lend themselves to rearranging. She extended the carpet into that space, covered the metal stall divider with fabric, hung "nice" towels and placed scented candles.

The Yankee clubhouse, aka the players' locker room, was used as a vesting area for cardinals and the papal entourage. It was also used as the primary sacristy during and after the Mass.

People accustomed to seeing televised shots of Yankees there might be surprised by the exquisite simplicity of the room when it is emptied of the players and their equipment.

Msgr. Leslie J. Ivers, New York archdiocesan site coordinator for Yankee Stadium, said that the Yankee organization agreed to temporarily clear the lockers of all items, including personal and team memorabilia.

He said that he heard from priests who vested in both Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium that the locker rooms in Washington had reading material not generally associated with Christian spirituality.

The dozens of bishops who concelebrated the Yankee Stadium Mass vested in the cavernous batting cages under the stadium.

Msgr. Ivers said he overcame the lack of bathroom facilities in the batting cages by installing "seven luxury flush-and-wash" toilets in the hallway outside the cages. A close inspection by a CNS reporter suggested that the "luxury" description might have been an exaggeration.

The priests and deacons vested in the Stadium Club, a members-only restaurant at the ballpark.

Msgr. Ivers, pastor of St. Frances de Chantal Parish in the Bronx borough of New York, was the archdiocesan coordinator of the 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II to New York.

He said that preparing for the Yankee Stadium Mass was in many ways easier than orchestrating the Central Park Mass for more than 100,000 people.

"We could accommodate fewer people at Yankee Stadium, but we were starting with an actual facility that already had seats and electricity and rooms and plumbing," he said. "At Central Park, we had to bring everything in."


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