I promise that I'm going to get to the new Nationals ballpark later today. But this little tidbit can't wait.
What started out as a small design and construction problem is quickly turning into a major issue. I've been hearing rumblings for a month or so, but couldn't confirm it until today (EDIT: April the First -- nudge, nudge).
According to the design documents I saw last summer, all of the video cabling for the new park, some of which is already buried in multiple layers of concrete, was designed and is being installed specifically to meet HD-DVD standards. This wouldn't be a problem but for the fact that Toshiba pulled the plug on HD-DVD back in February. As you probably know, Blu-Ray won out in the standards war, and HD-DVD has all but disappeared from the marketplace.
This means that a gigantic investment has been rendered nearly -- but not completely -- unusable. I've been trying to get Dave St. Peter to talk about this but without success so far. Dan Kenney, over at the Ballpark Authority, hasn't actually confirmed it, but when I asked, he would only say (repeatedly) that the Twins have agreed to pay for all cost overruns. I suspect that something like this would have to be considered a cost overrun, right?
Looking into the technology, it appears that unless the cabling can be upgraded in place (a very difficult proposition), the new scoreboards will be limited to 1080I resolution instead of the higher 1080P resolution which had been always intended. From a distance, you might not notice anything at first, but it's really a pretty major downgrade -- considering what they're spending on the various hi-def boards.
The preferred solution is to remove the incompatible cabling and replace it entirely. But this could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to six months of retro-fitting, and possibly (though not likely) even jeopardize the April 2010 opening. I did hear that two hand-operated manual scoreboards have been designed and will be built in the summer of 2009 if it looks like the hi-def won't be ready to go for the first few months of the 2010 season. That way they can at least open the park, and maybe even have a little fun with it. (Though I bet the whole mess could get pretty embarrassing...)
Well, today I think I finally confirmed this by peering through the chain link fence on the Seventh Street side. There were a couple of guys working with jackhammers cutting very precise lines in the almost brand new concrete. If you know of another reason why they might be doing this, please let me know because I can't think of any.
I was able to snap this unfortunately blurry picture (click to see a digitally-enhanced version):
On the bright side, the Twins could just choose to stick with HD-DVD, in which case when the park opens they will get a high-end player for $99 and five free HD-DVD movies, including "The Bad News Bears" (Billy Bob Thornton remake version) and "Damn Yankees."
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
A peek through a tiny gate.
An early concept for the pedestrial bridge. (Source: Ballpark Authority, RP)
Pile driving in progress
Seating mound (seen from the B ramp)
Photo by Jared Wieseler
Look closely and you'll see limestone on the front of the press box!
A view into the park down Sixth Street from just beyond Hennepin. Note that one side of the street contains century-old, classic buildings -- structures which are likely to last another century or more. The other side, not so much. (Click the image to see what it looked like from exactly the same spot 97 years ago.)
It's a great view of the action, though standing here is somewhat discouraged.
No admittance -- yet! Note that you can see the seating bolts which are in place already.
Emergency access as viewed from outside the ballpark
The mounds have grown seating supports
Clemson Memorial Stadium
A Hrbek tribute wall marks the end of the Carew side of the club
...but you can get a feel for what it will be like.
The sculpture on which millions of kids will one day pose.
Gate 29 "Carew" is at right.
Most of the main concourse is filled with construction materials...
This view, from the Minnekahda building (or possibly a predecessor), looks toward the right field corner. The City Market, at left, occupied the land where the B ramp and Target Plaza now stand (over I-394). And the Overlook now juts out just a little beyond where that driveway enters the railyard.
Showing more of the context for the louvers.
Ye Olde Tyme Vegetable Cart (and its modern cousin)
This was on BPM night. Nice neon, but I'm still waiting to see the homer show.
Flagpole historian Ben McEvers at far right (click for the full photo set, graciously loaned to this site by Pat Backen)
Those little oval additions are positively laughable!
This is the entrance behind home plate (not visible in the renderings which have been released). It shows that the upper deck is set back from the facade -- a very good thing if it remains in the final design.
The Seventh Street facade
July 7, 1966 (Click to see the entire scorecard with ads)
A little higher angle shows how the two stations are close to one another but distinctly separate. The oval, glass-enclosed area is the entrance from the Northstar platform below into the ballpark. The LRT platform is comparable to the other stations along that route.
Solution for a hot night, just inside Gate 34 (that's a cool mist, by the way, not hot steam, which would be kind of cruel)