September 19, 2005
To the surprise of no one who has any first-hand knowledge of local politics in Our Nation's Capital, the process of selecting a design of the future home of the Washington Nationals has gotten bogged down in a classic bureaucratic turf war. The mayor, various city council members (some of whom are running for mayor), as well as officials of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission are all trying to assert authority over the final design. Long-time baseball booster Jack Evans objected loudly when he saw an artist's rendering that lacked clear views of the Capitol dome. Good for him! One problem is that anticipated development of the South Capitol Street corridor will result in blocked views of the D.C. skyline, but the city already has ordinances on the books limiting building height in Washington, for aesthetic reasons, so there is no reason why they can't pass a special ordinance for that zone. See Washington Post. All these delays will make it very hard to finish construction of the new ballpark in time for the 2008 season, as is hoped. The impending sale of the franchise will also be held up, because MLB officials have stipulated that a stadium lease must be signed before the Nationals will be sold. One thing's for sure: D.C. officials are not going to be nearly as slow as MLB officials were during the last few years when negotiations over relocating the former Montreal Expos were repeatedly stalled for no good reason!
The Cardinals' front office is busy preparing for yet another postseason run, having clinched a berth before any other contenders, but they've also got a lot of logistical work ahead of them as they prepare to evacuate the existing Busch Stadium, which will be demolished as soon as possible after the season ends. The contractors no doubt hope the Cardinals don't go all the way to the World Series, because that would pinch their already-tight construction schedule for the new Busch Stadium (number III) even tighter. It has been decided, for safety reasons, to use a conventional wrecking ball rather than explosives. That will be disappointing to the fans who signed up for a special lottery in which the winner was going to throw the demolition switch on "D-Day." A seating diagram can be found at the end of a lengthy New ballpark season ticket brochure (PDF). I like the field layout, bullpen placement, and the orientation of the diamond with the Gateway Arch beyond center field, but am not too crazy about the unnecessarily disjointed grandstand sections and the excessive number of decks (four, plus skybox levels). The dimensions of the third incarnation of "Busch Stadium" will be ordinary down the lines (335/336) and in straightaway center field (400), but will be quite deep in the power alleys (390 feet on both sides). (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.)
Thanks to Steven Poppe for reminding me that "Cinergy Field" (the name given to Riverfront Stadium in its latter years) had a grass field during the last two seasons the Reds played there, 2001-2002. That diagram has been corrected.