Skidmore, Owings officials said their bid is clearly superior to HOK Sport's if judged by the design the city is seeking. Its portfolio includes the Sears Tower in Chicago and the Time Warner Center in New York. David Childs, who is in charge of the Freedom Tower project on the Ground Zero site, would be Skidmore, Owings's lead designer for a stadium in the District.
Although Skidmore, Owings has no sports experience, the firm has partnered with Turner-Meis, whose founders helped design the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field.
David Childs is on one of the three teams of finalists.
"We are the only team with a star architect," said Vishaan Chakrabarti, Skidmore, Owings's director of urban design.
"There should be a real desire on the part of the city to not just have this be business as usual, but to create great architecture. . . . We think the choice is black and white."
Childs said: "I would devote my life to [a stadium]. It's the kind of project you couldn't pry an architect's fingers off."
Harwood K. Smith officials could not be reached for comment despite several messages left for a company spokesman in Dallas. That firm has collaborated with other architects to help design or renovate several ballparks, including U.S. Cellular Field for the Chicago White Sox.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said he has heard that "baseball and the city like HOK. . . . I do, too. You have to guarantee me someone who can get this done by 2008, and they can.
"For us to deviate, in my view, someone would have to make a strong case."