Hello again! Real life intruded on my blogging availability for a while, but I have a large backlog of topics and a little bit of time ahead to tackle them. Please forgive my absence. Let's get to it!
Your Ballpark Authority has been busy, albeit with a bunch of issues that may seem a bit dry at first.
Top among these is something called LEED Certification. Dave St. Peter gave a brief introduction over on his blog, but there's much more to say. The Twins could really become innovators here without adding much in the way of cost or hassle to their ballpark design.
Ballark Authority members listen to the LEED introduction
The idea is that if you're going to build a big building, why not build it using sound environmental principles?
Imagine capturing rain water in a big tank beneath the park and reusing it later for irrigating the grass and flushing the toilets. This reduces both waste water into the sewers and the need to draw on fresh water. It's a no-brainer.
Imagine recycling gravel excavated from the site to build the drainage system beneath the grass. That saves on landfill costs and space, while also saving on the cost of buying new gravel.
Imagine 43,000 plastic seats, each made from 100% recycled materials.
Imagine orienting the building to maximize sunshine, then putting up solar panels to store power which is later used to turn on the lights during night games. The power savings could be huge.
Some will scoff at the notion (even if it is tongue-in-cheek), but if the Twins can make this happen, they will have the first stadium in North America to do so (only one other stadium in Europe has done this).
A quick glance at the requriements shows that the new ballpark already meets some of the big standards by virtue of A) replacing a surface parking lot, B) being very close to bus and train routes (less people will have to drive to get there), and C) planning to use excess steam from the HERC plant for heating and cooling.
So what's the catch?
That depends on who you talk to. Some will say that it adds substantial up-front costs which are not recouped for years -- if ever. Some say that it makes the project vulnerable to delays and cost overruns it might not otherwise see. Some say that ballparks are a special category of building which can't benefit as much from this type of design as, say, your average office building. These are some of the things that naysayers are currently naysaying in Washinton.
These people are all wrong. The costs are manageable. The risk of delays is no greater. The potential upside is just huge. Since this program was created, the price of green technologies has dropped substantially, and some are actually cheaper than their standard counterparts. Companies that have built buildings to this certification report using 42% less energy and 34% less water than their traditional counterparts. Those are savings which it doesn't take a microscope to measure. What's more, they report a 15% increase in employee productivity (imagine Mauer hitting .401!).
But there is till resistance, and it is motivated mostly by fear, and our biological instinct to take the bird in the hand (smaller cost savings now over bigger cost savings later). So it's heartening to hear (by way of Mr. St. Peter) that the Pohlad family is genuinely committed to building green (so to speak).
The key to making it work is to include this as a goal from the very beginning. That's where the LEED guidelines come in. They are structured to guide a project through the process from day one. This then requires the project to employ architects, engineers, and builders who are familiar with the technologies and techniques. This is easier said than done.
The Harvard Business Review ran a feature in June in which Charles Lockwood talks about many of these issues. (Read the entire article in this PDF file.) He says that the biggest barrier to building this way is simple inertia. "Team members who are unfamiliar with green will often resist any deviation from standard design principles, building materials, and construction processes. They will make mistakes on everything from the amount of insulation needed to the selection of interior components like nontoxic flooring, therefore limiting the building’s sustainability and having a negative impact on the budget."
But the bigger question is just how much the construction costs will be increased in order to meet the requirements. This is still unclear, and the stadium law passed by the Legislature stipulates that LEED certification is only required "if the Authority obtains grants sufficient to cover the increased costs."
Technically, this puts the whole thing into something of a limbo state: no grants, no LEED.
That would be a great mistake. The principles being talked about here are the types of things which will be standard design and building practices within a decade. Why not be on the cutting edge? If our ballpark is genuinely being built to last for generations (at least 2), then commitment to this type of innovative design is absolutely necessary.
The Ballpark Authority seemed genuinely committed to the idea of environmentally-friendly design, but it was clear that their greater commitment is to the budget.
I hope this doesn't lead to short-sighted decision-making.
"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 classic profile on the horizon
The parking bay structure is now clearly visible
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
(Click to enlarge.)
The transit corner entrance (Photo by Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune)
Detail of Entry Plaza #4 (north entry from Fifth Street)
Working on the main concourse right about directly behind the plate.
Note that, even though the scoreboard appears strategically placed, it's the outfield stands which block any potential view of the field from this roof.
This is what I was working on while my photo was taken (click to see a VERY BIG version).
Standing, standing, standing.
Emergency access viewed in context
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Fenway has posts. Target Field does not. But...
This looks from the base of the stairs, behind the big pillars, toward the street.
LRT station has appeared.
All three seating mounds
This is what it looked like during the first open house in March.
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...
Click to enlarge. (Photo by Jared Wieseler)
A view of construction from the B ramp. This looks toward Seventh Street, over what will be Gate 34 (the main entrance).
Gate 29 Carew
There are no caddies in baseball.
Looking up Sixth Street, now barricaded for plaza extension.
A recent view of the Bud deck in progress
The alumni band sounded great.
One of the many supports being built over the tracks.
TC caps everywhere! (Is that you?)
Legends Club seats feature in-seat service
Fencing is going up all along the plaza
Lots of work has gone into detailing the fronts of these decks. That is a little thing, but a NICE little thing. (HRP View)