Let your imagination run wild for a moment:

It is April 1993. The Washington Redskins have cleared out of RFK Stadium for their new digs and the stadium is about to host its first major league baseball regular season game since Sept. 30, 1971. RFK has changed quite a bit.

Through the magic of baseballization, its original intent has been recaptured. A happily cramped stadium with great ambience and lousy sightlines is a park again. As a sellout crowd of about 42,000 festively files in, the place seems familiar, but you notice a newness.

There was that escalator that brought you to your seating level. And left field no longer pop fly from home plate. In fact, there are no lower-deck stands at all in the outfield.

A row of suites lines what used to be the mezzanine level from one foul pole to the other. Another row of suites, at the back of the lower deck, swings around from behind the on-deck circle on the third-base side to the right field foul pole. A video board hangs in right-center field. A stadium club and function rooms overlook the field. Rest room and concession facilities have been renovated.

That is just the inside. Outside, there is a kiddie park with rides and other assorted amusements for youngsters looking for something else to do by the bottom of the third inning.

Somewhere amidst all of this, Washington developer John Akridge smiles.

Back in 1990, he had promised an "absolutely state-of-the-art" facility. Where others had seen a roadblock in Washington's path back to the majors, Akridge had seen what he called "a baseball stadium -- and a baseball stadium of old . . . more of a baseball stadium than a lot of stadiums the people think are real good baseball stadiums."

All RFK Stadium lacked, he had said, "are the '90s kind of creature comforts that people think of when they think of modern stadiums." Now, on Opening Day 1993, Akridge has made good on his promise. It was relatively cheap, relatively easy.

"That would be the beauty of this whole renovation," Akridge said, his use of the word "would" snapping us back to the fall of 1990. "We wouldn't have to seriously alter the structure. And the reason for that is it was designed as a baseball park -- not a football stadium."

So, last spring, when Akridge was just beginning to organize his bid for an expansion team, he approached the sports division of the Kansas City, Mo.-based architectural firm of HNTB with the following instructions: Make two lists -- one with a program for the design of a state-of-the-art baseball stadium and one with what exists at RFK Stadium. Subtract.

The difference forms the blueprint for a proposed $35 million to $40 million renovation project that HNTB's Terry Miller said would make RFK "comparable to any other facility associated with baseball." At least those were the words Miller said he used last month when he helped Akridge's group make its presentation to the National League Expansion Committee.

"I told them it won't be the newest one," Miller said, "but it will have all the accoutrements" of a new stadium.

The money for the renovation, which would cost about one-third of what it would take to build a new stadium, would come from several sources. Akridge's group would pay about $5 million to $10 million, including all costs associated with the construction of the suites -- the revenue from which will be entirely theirs.

The D.C. Armory Board would fund $30 million -- about $5 million from a deferred maintenance fund it has been keeping for a baseball renovation, $25 million from tax-exempt bonds it was authorized to issue under a provision of the 1986 federal tax reform act. The debt service on the bonds would come from rental payments by the baseball team.

The authority to issue the bonds expires at the end of this year, and city officials are taking the necessary steps to issue them, even though there is no guarantee RFK Stadium will need to be renovated for baseball.

The work might take two years to complete, depending on the status of a new football stadium sources have said Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke would like to occupy in the 1993 season. And Akridge said it is possible no construction could take place on the suites as long as the Redskins continue to play at RFK because of the construction's effect on the stadium's football seating configuration.

In addition, a redistribution of restrooms and concession areas that would place a greater number of these facilities near seating areas between the foul poles also might have to be put on hold.

But much of the construction could be done without disruption to other events at the stadium, Miller said. And although Akridge said he has not discussed the issue with Cooke, whose team's lease for RFK expires at the end of the current NFL season, he said the renovation "will be a cooperative event, let's put it that way."

A total of 95 suites would be created. The lower level of suites would be constructed in the back of the lower deck and would require the removal of about 10 rows of seats. The reason this level of suites would not extend beyond the on-deck circle on the third-base side is the presence of RFK's current stadium club, which is separated from the seating area by a wall. It is possible that wall would be knocked out so a renovated stadium club can provide a view of the field.

The upper level of suites would be constructed out of what currently is the stadium's mezzanine level and would require the removal of the front five rows of the upper deck. The current mezzanine areas not involved in the construction of suites might be converted into enclosed function rooms for large groups.

Next, but fundamentally more important, is removing the stands that currently occupy what would be left and left-center fields. This could be accomplished a number of ways, stadium general manager Jim Dalrymple said. The method selected would depend on the stadium's need for rapid conversion of its seating configuration for other events.

Other elements of the renovation involve creating offices and training facilities that would enable the team to house all of its operations at the stadium, Akridge said. Clubhouses and the press box would be refurbished. Access for the handicapped would be upgraded.

One factor that will help speed construction is RFK's ability to easily accommodate it.

"It's as if it was set up 30 years ago anticipating adding all the amenities that would be necessary," Miller said. "There's a lot of flexibility in the structure. You don't find that in every stadium that you renovate."

And with stadiums built about the same time as the 30-year-old RFK, Miller said, you also do not always find the ability to renovate for baseball so easily. He said when HNTB gets involved in a stadium renovation project it attempts to get original documents about the structure "as far back as we possibly can."

He said the firm compares a stadium's current condition and configuration with the proposed renovation, as well as what the stadium's designer originally had in mind.

With respect to RFK, Miller said HNTB found: "Unlike a lot of the circular-shaped stadiums built in the '60s, RFK was specifically designed around baseball. Football was a secondary use. The stands and seats were situated so they face what would be the area behind second base."

The gentle slope of the lower deck and configuration of the upper deck that football fans find so nettlesome are testimony to RFK's intimacy for baseball. Football fans seated along the sidelines in the front portion of the lower deck have difficulty seeing over the players and others who crowd the field. Those seated above the end zones in the top portions of the upper deck lose sight of players and footballs heading into the back halves of the end zones.

"It's much more intimate {for baseball} than Busch Stadium or Three Rivers Stadium," Miller said. RFK's minimal amount of foul territory also brings fans closer to baseball action than Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum does, he said.

And as incredible as it may seem, Miller said computer-generated overlays that provide comparisons of the slopes of stadiums' stands and their distances from the field show that RFK's seating configuration for baseball is comparable to those of Royals Stadium and new Comiskey Park, which HNTB designed, and even Fenway Park, which HNTB renovated.

"That always raises an eyebrow or two," Miller said.

Even Akridge was among those surprised. When he decided he wanted to lead an effort to obtain an expansion baseball team for the District, he thought his plans might have to include a new stadium.

"The underlying assumption," he said, was that RFK Stadium was "adequate." However, the facility was constructed in 1960, and "as I was getting into this whole project," he said, "I heard so many negative things about RFK from people in baseball. They said it's a football stadium, it wasn't designed for baseball, it doesn't fit the game of baseball. I figured they knew a whole lot more about it than I did. It turns out they didn't."