Winter 2008 Progress Report

As the skies cleared up earlier this week, I got a quick glance of the light dusting of snow on Mount Hamilton and the hills east of San Jose. I figured that was my cue to dust off the progress graphics and post them anew. With no further ado, here are the five non-New York projects in motion and their relative statuses.

The EIR is in full swing and the site is acquired and largely cleared. Nothing else to report right now.

How’s this for confusion: A
report released a week ago by the District of Columbia shows that the Nats ballpark is $43 million over budget, whereas a report released yesterday by a local labor union claims that the project is on time and on budget. The difference? Rising land acquisition costs thanks to eminent domain actions. Nevertheless the ballpark will, despite my misgivings, open April 7, less than two years from the original groundbreaking. That’s good news for the A’s, since they’ve got a shot to finish construction in a similar or even lesser timeframe – important if the approval process is extended for one reason or another. The big problem facing the Nats: Parking. Even though they expect up to 50% of the fanbase to use Metro to the nearby Navy Yard station, the team has counted only 5,000 parking spaces in the vicinity.

Construction of the downtown, open air ballpark began last May. Aside from squabbles about the price of the ballpark’s land (sensing a theme here?), they appear to be on schedule. The Twins were, in a sense, winners in a game of public financing roulette. They and the University of Minnesota football team were able to score new venues last year, leaving the Vikings out for the time being. Both the Vikes and Twins were frequently considered relocation threats in the past, now only the NFL franchise is a candidate. Last year’s bridge collapse appears to have squelched any talk of a new stadium for the Vikings. It’s just too bad that the Twins “needed” a sales tax hike to fund their new digs, a point of regression when it comes to stadium financing. They also did an endaround past a normally mandated public vote in the process.

Next Tuesday marks a crucial step in the Marlins’ quest for a stadium at the Orange Bowl (not their first choice of sites). That’s when the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County may vote on a binding agreement to build a stadium with the team (the vote has been twice delayed already). The agreement may or may not be ready in time for the vote. While the pols scramble to get the deal in place, the deal faces greater scrutiny as it’s only part of a massive $3 billion development plan. Former Philadelphia Eagles owner and longtime area businessman Norman Braman
filed a lawsuit against the city and county over the plan, claiming that the scheme misappropriates millions of taxpayer dollars while not involving the public in the process.

Speaking of public scrutiny,
various St. Petersburg-area groups are all taking a look at the Rays’ downtown St. Pete plans. The Rays, chained to a watertight lease at Tropicana Field, have offered to get the land at the Trop developed, if the proceeds can help them escape the lease and move to the site of their spring training home, Progress Energy Park (a.k.a. Al Lang Field). The old park would be demolished and it its place would rise an open air stadium with a sail-like retractable roof to protect fans and players from the elements (well, except Florida heat). Concerns are coming in from downtown business and residents who worry about parking, and environmentalists who are concerned about extending construction into Tampa Bay, thereby threatening a manatee habitat. So far no local pols have visibly approved the plan, which seemed to come out of nowhere in late November.

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