A much-anticipated design for a new home for the Washington Nationals features glass, stone and steel as the primary materials and departs sharply from the popular red-brick throwback ballparks.
The design will not be released for several weeks and still could be modified, but Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and key city officials have given the nod to the modern look.
In briefings over the past week, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission presented a projector show to Williams and several D.C. Council members containing drawings developed by the stadium's architectural team, led by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Sport of Kansas City, Mo.
The stadium, which will be along the Anacostia River in near Southeast, features an exterior wall largely made of glass and broken up by limestone portals, according to city sources who have seen the drawings. Aspects of the design create a translucent quality, offering fans inside views of the surrounding neighborhood and teasing those outside with glimpses of game activities.
People who have seen the working version say the ballpark will open to the northeast and afford views of the Capitol -- but only from a limited number of upper-deck seats and the press box.
It provides 78 luxury boxes in two stacked rows and 3,000 club seats between first base and third base, affording high-paying patrons prime views. Some of the club seats and a restaurant would be in the lower deck behind home plate.
Beyond the outfield, architects have placed another restaurant and a public walkway, designed to be open to the public even on days when there are no games.
Two cantilevered ramps leading to the upper decks contain viewing platforms from which fans can pause to take in sweeping scenes of the city -- the federal monuments to the north and the Anacostia River to the south.
Outside the stadium, a slender, angled building for offices, probably for the team, juts from the stadium from behind the home plate stands. Two large aboveground parking garages are situated to the north of the stadium.
As for the playing field, the deepest part of center field is 408 feet, the sources said.
The city plans to build the 41,000-seat stadium and related infrastructure on several city blocks near South Capitol Street SE and the Navy Yard at a cost of $535 million, most of it public money.
In separate briefings, Williams, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) told commission officials that they are comfortable with the designs, the sources said.
"I thought it was nice," Cropp said yesterday. "It's different and unique. It's very modern."
Sports commission Chief Executive Allen Y. Lew has declined to release the drawings, but officials said the designs could be made public within a few weeks.
Williams "liked it," mayoral spokesman Vince Morris said. "He thought it was very unique, really distinctive. . . . We're getting to a point where he feels like he's seeing designs he's comfortable with. When he feels ready to go, we'll release it."
The only holdout among city leaders who have seen the stadium designs was council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who has long pushed for a red-brick ballpark. Evans demanded that the commission present him with an alternative design in time for a public hearing on baseball matters before the council Nov. 28, sources with knowledge of the meetings said.
"Jack was like, 'No, no, no!' " said one city source involved in the discussions. "He thinks it looks like an office building."
Morris stressed that no final decisions have been made.
"Until we have a final design, then most things are still on the table," he said. "That's why the mayor reached out to Sharon and Jack and Linda. He wanted to share with them what he knows."
Cropp has told Evans that the final decision on the stadium will be up to the mayor, as the council does not get involved in voting on the design of public buildings.
Nevertheless, Evans has argued that a largely brick stadium could be cheaper than the current designs and has asked for a cost analysis, the city sources said.
Sports commission officials have been concerned about the stadium's budget, saying that costs have risen since initial budgets were prepared more than a year ago, in part because of the soaring cost of materials. This week, city officials negotiating a lease agreement for the stadium with baseball officials asked the league to contribute $20 million for underground parking, saying the budget could not cover that.