SBJ/June 27 - July 3, 2005/Facilities

Santee: Critics of new Yankees stadium need to get out more

HOK Sport’s Earl Santee thinks New York Yankees baseball fans, including the local papers’ architectural critics, should expand their horizons and visit the latest MLB facilities, 16 of which he’s played a role in planning for new construction or renovation.

Reviewers from The New York Times and Newsday criticized the team and HOK for designing what appears to be a carbon copy of Yankee Stadium on the exterior.

“The Yankees have great and loyal fans, but unless they attend other buildings, they really wouldn’t know” what modern ballparks offer in terms of amenities, especially compared with their 82-year-old surroundings, Santee said.

It’s what’s on the inside that really counts in the new stadium, he said.

“We’re turning the [existing] building upside down,” Santee said, referring to the 30,000 seats designed in the new ballpark’s lower bowl, about 10,000 more than old Yankee Stadium’s lower deck.

The premium restaurant planned for behind home plate “reminds me of Petco Park and Anaheim as it relates to the seats,” he said.

HOK also is designing the New York Mets’ new ballpark and the New Jersey Devils’ new arena in Newark.

“None of the buildings the New York [area] teams play in are great,” Santee said. “They may be places of history and legend, but the concourses are too small and the concessions and rest rooms are hard to get in and out of. People in New York [and New Jersey] can’t imagine it being any better. When they realize it can be, it will be incredible.”

WICHITA LINEUP: Ellerbe Becket, HOK and Leo A Daly are scheduled to interview this week to design the $185 million arena proposed for Wichita, Kan.

Ellerbe Becket took a van full of designers from Kansas City on a three-hour drive to Wichita last week to examine the three potential sites, said Stuart Smith, the firm’s director of business development.

Kansas City’s Sprint Center, shown in a rendering, will vie for the Big 12 men’s hoops tourney.
Sedgwick County’s plan in Wichita is to build an arena with 13,500 to 15,000 seats that would open in late 2008. The new venue would serve as the home of minor league football, hockey and basketball, and local officials also want a modern facility to compete for NCAA basketball regionals and the Big 12 Conference women’s basketball tournament.

The new arena’s seating capacity would fall short of the 17,000 seats necessary to bid for the Big 12 men’s tournament, however, and Wichita might be out of luck based on the conference’s requirement that the men’s and women’s events be held in separate facilities in the same city. The women require 9,000 seats, said Rob Carolla, the Big 12’s director of communications in Dallas.

“That’s not saying that the athletic directors and the coaches couldn’t change their minds,” he said.

Omaha, Neb., aims to join Kansas City (which was to break ground on its new Sprint Center last Friday), Dallas and Oklahoma City in bidding for the Big 12 tournaments beyond 2007.

The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority in Omaha approved $6.5 million in funding earlier this month to add 1,472 fixed seats inside 2-year-old Qwest Center so the arena could reach the 17,000-seat threshold.

The women would play at 9,700-capacity Omaha Civic Auditorium, confirmed Roger Dixon, Qwest Center’s executive director.

Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, opens in July and seats 16,110 for basketball, and the facility could get close to 17,000 by putting more chairs on the floor, said Andy Long, Global Spectrum’s on-site manager. Global will “look at everything and anything” that makes sense financially, he said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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