Let the Stadium Wars Begin

A look at the coming battle over public financing for a baseball-only park, and an immodest proposal.

The reality, so far, is quite different. For starters, the Diamondbacks' new Bank One Ballpark currently checks in at a hefty $327 million even if you throw out the building's planned Olympic-size swimming pool, and that's $75 million more than the top price discussed for a new Twins field. Second, the atmosphere appears hardly Camden-like. The roof sits heavily on top, blocking the cityscape so effectively that designers have devised an inelegant solution: massive panels that flop down behind the outfield seats to let the surroundings in. And the lid, which sits just above the highest seats, fits like a rectangle over a diamond, throwing some seats into what looks like perpetual gloom.

What's more, no one knows if it will work: Racing toward a 1998 completion date, the stadium is being designed on the so-called "fast track" process, in which later components of the stadium are designed while the first are being built.

Savelkoul has also seized upon the fact that the ballpark, with roof closed, requires no air conditioning, merely a cheaper "air movement" system. One can hear echoes of the claim a dozen years ago that the Metrodome, half-buried in the earth, would require no cooling. One local architect who has seen the Phoenix design says it will not work here: "In Arizona, you block the sun and you block a lot of the heat. Here, you also have the humidity to contend with. Any Minnesotan who's bought an air conditioner after using a fan knows that."

While Bell has put a $40 million price tag on the must-have roof, the truth is, no one really knows how expensive it will be. Jim Pohlad does not sound as absolute about the roof as Bell. "Everything is negotiable," he demurs. But such open-mindedness is not without cost. The Twins have hinted they might lower their contribution if their new playpen lacks a top--although the public subsidy might also shrink if stadium costs drop dramatically.

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