SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/No Topic Name

Charlotte vote leaves arena architects down, not out

Fallout from Charlotte's referendum failure has drifted far beyond the borders of North Carolina.

For instance, a group of architects and engineers in Kansas City waited nervously for results of the June 5 vote, heard the verdict and went into a serious funk.

"Just me personally, I've been working on the Charlotte arena design for a year and a half," said Doug Brown, project leader for Ellerbe Becket. "We knew that a 'no' vote was possible, obviously, but it was very disappointing to all the people who've become so closely involved."

Ellerbe Becket originally was hired by the Hornets to create their proposed downtown arena. Then the city of Charlotte took over the contract this spring.

"They notified us the day after the election to stop work," Brown said. "The city has asked us to document the project as to its current status and submit that."

Brown estimated that about 20 people — 12 architects and eight structural and mechanical engineers — had been working full time in what the company called its "Charlotte section."

Though Ellerbe Becket has plenty of other jobs ready for capable hands and no one figures to sit idle very long, Brown said the Charlotte election loss was a real downer for a gang that put so much creative energy into the dream.

"Realistically, it's not that atypical," Brown said. "It's probably rarer that a deal goes right on through from design to construction without some type of delay — politics, financing, that sort of thing.

"My first four years at Ellerbe Becket, I didn't work on a single project that started construction. And yet ultimately they all were built, so things like this aren't a complete shock."

As for what happens now, Brown said his team of designers could start again, almost on a moment's notice.

"We were on schedule to meet a 2003 opening," Brown said. "We would still have been working while construction was going on under that timetable. With the situation now, we could get right back on it, but I can't imagine we could meet the same schedule.

"Still, we're ready to go. We're prepared to start right back up if the city and the Hornets come to an agreement."

And what about that section of the office that's crammed with drawings, partial models, Hornets paraphernalia and such? What happens to the "Charlotte section"?

It's staying intact.

"We won't archive things until there's a final decision," Brown said, "and I'm an optimist, so I believe we'll still be designing an arena in Charlotte.

"I just don't know when."

 COOL STUFF: In the science-and-technology-made-practical category, this particular item sounds almost like a joke.

But it's not.

Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix soon will be helping to air-condition large chunks of downtown.

The stadium is a key component of a partnership called Northwind Phoenix, a venture of APS Energy Services. Northwind plans to cool sections of downtown through a unique system that relies on an ice storage and chilled water facility just south of Bank One Ballpark.

The theory of ice storage involves producing air conditioning during off-peak times, using an ice-based chiller system that can manufacture 3 million pounds of ice each night.

When heat is most intense and the cool air is in demand, the stored ice will be melted through an underground distribution network to air-conditioned buildings.

It's a continuing process, as the water is returned to the ice maker for rechilling.

Northwind Phoenix signed Bank One Ballpark, which is owned by Maricopa County, as its first customer in 1999. Northwind will assume operation and maintenance of the stadium's chillers.

The 20,000-ton cooling system plant incorporates 8,000 tons of the stadium's existing chillers, two new 2,500-ton chillers and an ice-based thermal storage tank. The plant, which is right behind the ballpark, has become part of the stadium's permanent chiller facility.

Northwind Phoenix says it has sold more than 60 percent of its cooling capacity — counting America West Arena among its customers — and expects to sell the remainder by the end of 2002.

Other buildings served by the system include Dodge Theater, the new county jail and administration buildings and the Security Center.

Bank One Ballpark, meanwhile, should be able to reduce its electrical demand by as much as 40 percent since it won't have to maintain its own cooling equipment.

OK, now as long as nobody fiddles with the knobs and turns the pitcher's mound to ice, we can say Phoenix truly has found one way to beat the heat.

  FOND MEMORY: Denver football fans no doubt waxed slightly nostalgic last week, what with Bucky the Bronco safely moved to his perch atop soon-to-debut Invesco Field at Mile High.

Bucky, a white bronc rearing majestically on his hind legs, hovered above the south end zone of the old Mile High Stadium for 25 years.

Part of the deal struck by the Metropolitan Football Stadium District to build a new stadium for the Broncos included a promise that Bucky would be refurbished and relocated on top of Invesco's south scoreboard.

Bucky was hoisted into place June 8 by the Winslow Crane Service of Englewood, Colo., and will be covered until the stadium's opening ceremonies Aug. 11.

Blast from the past: Back when the idea of a beautiful bronco gracing the stadium gained public favor, a naming contest was conducted. Bronco fans submitted thousands of suggestions.

And in fact, Bucky actually wasn't a popular choice. Most people thought the name was too bland, or just plain corny.

There were some wonderfully imaginative names entered in the contest, too.

My own favorite, for what's it worth, was "Horse Greeley."

Sorry, Bucky.

If you have news, updates or anecdotes about any sports venue, contact Steve Cameron at

Return to top
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug