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 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
This appears to be the floor to the home dugout!
Also from the B ramp entrance off of Third, a look up at the tiny crack between ballpark and parking ramp
That warning sign doesn't mention anything about the potential for bludgeoning or limb removal by the revolving doors...
Looking back toward the ballpark from Third Avenue and Fifth Street. Again, the track configuration is now clearly visible.
Purple flowers above Second Avenue
A glimpse of the rather plain west facade (the side which faces the HERC plant).
Wright's Marin County Hall of Justice, San Rafael, California (1959)
A path for workers -- don't touch the plaza! -- in front of three giant Chia pets
Concept drawing for the fan/player appreciation wall. (Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)
The Ballpark Authority at work (Source: RP)
Time to paint those supports Vikings-purple.
Thome steps in.
The right field foul pole seen against a backdrop of Butler Square (itself a site of great significance in the history of professional baseball in Minneapolis)
Viewed from an A ramp elevator lobby.
No arches. No brick. No girders. Classic.
That's part of the wind veil, waiting in the B ramp for installation
Wayfinding within the B ramp is still a work in progress.
This would have been the HERC side, though it's unclear just how far over the plant the retracted roof would have gone. My fear was always that they would have to shorten the track and more of the roof would have stayed over the ballpark. The only good retractable roof is one which disappears when not in use. I don't think they could have realistically created such a thing.
August 2001 (a month later we were engaged)
Work going on under the steel.
Larry DiVito takes a last check of everything before the game starts
Section 117, Row WC (applies to all the back rows under the Legends Club seating)
This design has a rather generic quality to it, but they appear to have considered the B garage. Though it isn't part of the model, they've clearly left room for it.
The Fifth Street side is pretty busy. There's a small street entrance to the B ramp, then ticket booths and an entrance gate, a rare exterior section not covered in limestone, the wooden screen covering the circulation ramps, the administration building, and finally (just out of view) the interface with Northstar. All of that sits behind the LRT action. How pedestrians will interact with this side of the park is a great mystery to me. You know that Metro Transit won't be letting them cross the tracks anywhere but at either end of the block...