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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Buyer's remorse in Arlington?

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the following headline on the front page:

Stadium to look 'like a spaceship'

Great. I am not sure "spaceship" is the term that Arlingtonians want to hear. To me, it conjures up images of the Fort Worth (now Tarrant County) Convention Center

The story reports the following relatively unsurprising news:
Sources also say the stadium is likely to cost more than its $650 million budget, although the city's contribution is capped at $325 million and the county's portion is $25 million.
I grow more suspicious of the "contribution is capped" language the more it is used, which is just about every time there is a story about the pending stadium. Either the paper and city officials are consistently asserting their fiduciary responsibility to the citizenry or there is a loophole that is waiting to be exploited and therefore the politicians have plausible deniability - something like "Gee, we were always told our contribution was capped, see how often we said so?"

Anyway, my personal cynicism aside, the story does give some more "details" about the stadium, some of which seem unique and perhaps neat, to wit:
It won't have red bricks, sources say. It will have a hole over the field so Cowboys fans can still joke that God is watching his favorite team.

According to construction bid packages, a retractable roof will cover the hole.

But the Cowboys' retractable roof will open only above the playing field, unlike other sports facilities where retractable roofs unfold to reveal the sky above the entire stadium.

Think of it like a sunroof, one source said.

With the field level 50 feet below ground, sources said end-zone seating will stop at the ground level. This "unique" architectural feature makes it look like there is no end zone seating above ground and allows fans to immediately look down on the field upon entering the stadium from the parking lot, sources said.

The roof was advertised as costing close to $200 million. However, the sunroof style roof sounds intriguing and might not cost as much (yeah right). I do like the idea of the "see through" end-zone. That would be a unique look. However, my understanding is that the original Arlington stadium, which was replaced by the Ballpark in Arlington (okay, Ameriquest Field in Arlington) was originally a below-ground bowl (with above-ground seats added later). All reports was that it didn't work out very well, but it was open air and didn't have the same ability to funnel air.

There is still no indication on the orientation of the stadium. The footprint appears to suggest that the field will run East-West, rather than North-South. This might make sense as the prevailing winds are either North or South and, on a "normal" day could reach twenty miles per hour or more. I wouldn't want to be a field goal kicker in a stadium with such winds.

That said, the footprint is basically a hole in the ground with a retaining wall, so my take on the stadium's orientation, from a few hundred yards away, may be completely wrong.

A final note, the Mayor provides rhetorical support for the stadium's design by claiming: "It's going to be like no other stadium that's ever been...The taxpayers are going to get more than their money's worth."

Hmmm...hate to beat a dead horse here, but all indications is that we will get less than our money's worth. If the city had contributed, say $100-150 million, perhaps he would be correct. On the other hand, perhaps a $650+ million spaceship is a swinging deal - a space shuttle launch costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

If you'd like to see a stadium that really does look like a spaceship, check out the new Soldier's Field, in which a spaceship has landed on a monument to World War I.
And I thought the renovated Soldier Field looked like a spaceship, but it does not have a retractable roof. I can see how that would add even more to the "flying saucer" effect.
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