Eight architectural firms entered bids yesterday to become the chief designer of a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals, a project that city leaders have described as a chance to create an iconic ballpark along the Anacostia River.
The companies met the proposal deadline imposed by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which hopes to select a lead architect within three weeks. Among the competitors are some of the leading sports stadium designers in the country and internationally renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, who designed the Tokyo International Forum and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. Some of the firms have teamed up with companies that specialize in large D.C. projects and urban planning.
A six-member committee will review the applications over the coming week and determine how many groups to bring in for interviews. The committee will have two representatives each from the sports commission, the office of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and Major League Baseball. Allen Y. Lew, chief executive of the sports commission, will make the final selection with input from the committee and his board of directors, officials said.
"We want a good, functional baseball stadium that MLB and the team can be proud of," said Mark H. Tuohey, chairman of the sports commission. "At the same time, we want a facility that does reflect the nation's capital."
The choice of an architect is important for several reasons. City leaders view the architect as crucial to ensuring that the ballpark opens by March 2008 and stays on budget, $279 million for construction. They also hope that a stadium near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street in Southeast Washington can help spark economic development in a largely neglected area. Major League Baseball, which owns the Nationals, wants a facility designed to draw large crowds and to offer attractions that encourage them to spend money inside the ballpark.
The sports commission has called on firms to be creative and not simply mimic other stadiums. The consensus among commission members, city leaders and architects is that the stadium will not be of the red brick throwback model popularized by Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The firms that presented proposals are: Rafael Vinoly Architects; Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum Sport; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn Architects; Harwood K. Smith Architects; HNTB Architects; EwingCole; and David M. Schwarz Architects.
Some representatives of these firms said their proposals were not detailed but were designed to answer the sports commission's basic requirements, such as ensuring that the companies could provide $50 million in insurance and meet a provision that more than half the employees working on the project are from the District. They said that they will be more specific about design ideas if they are called for an interview.
"We didn't hold anything back," said Carrie Plummer, a spokeswoman for Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum Sport, which has designed 10 of the 14 newest baseball stadiums, including San Francisco's SBC Park and Pittsburgh's PNC Park. "We put together the best design team. This is a dream project because of its iconic potential."
The sports commission released only the names of the lead architects, but several firms combined with others to present their bids. For example, Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn Architects, which has roots in Washington, has joined with Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Becket as well as Janet Marie Smith, who designed Oriole Park and is a consultant for the Boston Red Sox on a redesign of Fenway Park.
"We have one seamless team, although we have people who are good at different things," said Matthew Bell, a principal with Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn.
Schwarz designed the Ballpark at Arlington for the Texas Rangers; EwingCole did Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park; and HNTB designed Invesco Field for the Denver Broncos football team.
Harwood K. Smith Architects has designed basketball arenas and Miller Park for the Milwaukee Brewers. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Web site says the company has designed office, government, school and residential buildings; and Vinoly's site says he has done residential buildings and an airport terminal in Japan, as well as other projects.