- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

District officials yesterday received eight bids to design the Washington Nationals’ planned ballpark in Southeast, prompting an accelerated review process that will determine a winner in less than three weeks.

The submissions represent nearly all the key players in sports architecture because the District stadium represents perhaps the most sought-after project in the industry.

“We think we got the attention of the design community,” said Allen Y. Lew, chief executive officer of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission.

The bidders declined to offer substantive details on their proposals. But each company believes it can meet the city’s requirement to create a stadium that is “timeless, unique in the nation’s capital, and representative of 21st-century architectural ideals.” The sports commission made a specific point of seeking a stadium plan that does not copy the retro-inspired ballparks that have mushroomed around the country.

“We’re holding nothing back,” said Carrie Plummer, brand manager for Kansas City-based HOK Sport. “People in our business dream about a project like this, and we feel we have put together something that is very reflective of the city’s vision for this ballpark.”

City and Nationals officials intend to select a winner by March10, more than a week later than the original decision date of next Monday. But there is still little time to waste because the stadium must be completed by March1, 2008, with several key dates looming before then.

Bidders were actively encouraged to bring in design talent from outside the confines of sports architecture, and several submissions reflect experience in various forms of commercial and residential development. The city’s desire for a wide base of expertise stems from a need to weave the ballpark into the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI), a multi-billion dollar redevelopment project in which the stadium will play a key role.

Artwork and design treatment were not necessarily a part of the submissions. Rather, bidders will be judged foremost on their prior design experience, particularly in high-profile urban projects; a demonstrated ability to build a stadium to Major League Baseball specifications; and a capacity to handle the tight time and financial confines of the project. Projected design costs and hiring of local and disadvantaged businesses also will be key considerations.

“I don’t think we’re to a point yet where we’re doing treatments,” said Hamilton O’Dell of HNTB Architecture. “We still need to know more about the master plan for the AWI.”

The list of bidders includes:

• HNTB Architecture, based in Kansas City and one of the lead entities in the ongoing renovation of RFK Stadium. The firm’s sports portfolio includes Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio, and the Denver Broncos’ Invesco Field at Mile High.

• District-based designers Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn, and Devrouax & Purnell. EEK previously aided the sports commission in a site evaluation study used to help select the ballpark location; Devrouax & Purnell worked on the interior of MCI Center. The companies are being aided by a team of consultants that includes Ellerbe Becket and Janet Marie Smith, currently vice president of planning and development for the Boston Red Sox and a dominant figure in the design of Camden Yards and Atlanta’s Turner Field, and renovations for Fenway Park.

• HOK Sport. A dominant figure in sports facility design, the firm claims more than a dozen MLB stadiums to its credit, including Baltimore’s Camden Yards and San Francisco’s celebrated SBC Park. Camden Yards helped usher in a historic wave of retro ballparks but is now beginning to be eschewed for more locally obvious design touches and more modern stylings. HOK also lists Devrouax & Purnell, one of the District’s leading minority-owned design firms, as part of its bid.

• Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Founded in Chicago, this firm remade that city’s skyline with the design of the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center. Locally, SOM worked on the master plan for the Mall, as well as the Hirshhorn Museum.

• HKS, Inc. The Dallas-based operation was selected as stadium architect for Northern Virginia’s failed relocation bid for the Montreal Expos. The firm’s baseball work includes Miller Park in Milwaukee and Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Texas.

• David M. Schwarz Architectural Services. Based in the District, the company also worked on Ameriquest Field and American Airlines Center in Dallas.

• EwingCole. The company worked with HOK to design Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.

• Rafael Vinoly Architects. Based in New York, this well-known firm is active in designing performing arts and research centers. Locally, Vinoly designed the Porter Neuroscience Research Center at the National Institutes of Health.

The choice of the stadium architect will be made by a six-person review team including two members from the sports commission, two from the District government and two from the Nationals.

Lew declined to specify the members of the team, but he almost certainly will be involved in the choice along with Steve Green, director of Development for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Nationals chief operating officer Kevin Uhlich.

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