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 3019 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
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)
Packed SRO beneath the notch.
Stairs wrap around the skyway escape tower. A very nice finishing touch.
Clyde Doeppner proudly displays colored bricks he scavenged from the Met during its demolition. These are the colors in question!
Catwalks provide access to the View Level seats (from the Ballpark Authority July update)
This little pathway snakes between the LRT tracks and the Environmental Services Building, emptying into the parking area surrounding the HERC. It could be for maintenance, but it looks more like it's for convenience.
The Northstar stop has a name.
Wow! Looking good.
Also warming things up are these planters.
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Life in the shadows
Home plate mount from Met Stadium (Source: LP, courtesy Clyde Doepner)
A collection of support pillars for the left field pavilion.
This view clearly shows the curve in the left field stands and the relationship of the first row with the playing field (no overhang to speak of in left).
Thanks for all the hard work out there, Cold Safety-Line Dudes. (I'm glad that my job does not require safety lines...)
These openings will facilitate access to the catwalks which run throughout the canopy.
At the base of the B ramp, the foundation for the center field stands.
I don't exactly know what this is. A first-aid station? Concession office?
These guys were there, but it wasn't any of you, right?
Looking for some detail
Our host points to the Puckett Atrium on the diagram.
The same section seen from Target Center. Yep, looks like bridge supports.
The lights have covers on the top, presumably to reduce light pollution
Viewed from another angle, you can see that the bullpens now sit beneath the upper deck outfield seating.
Very interesting detail starting to appear here.
Here is one of the concept drawings referenced (but not shown) in the MPR story (conceptual ballpark at left, LRT tracks switched to the north half of the Fifth Street bridge, which is actually in all of the long-range plans).
At TF, you never know when you may bump into a Pohlad