Tuesday, January 27, 1998
Anaheim not proof Cinergy
will work

The Cincinnati Enquirer

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The massive remodeling of Anaheim Stadium provides an encouraging example for Cincinnati as city and Reds officials consider a similar project to end the team's search for a ballpark. But the Anaheim project also offers reasons to be cautious.

Baseball bats support the main entrance to the renovated Anaheim Stadium. | ZOOM |
Kevin Uhlich, the Anaheim Angels' stadium manager, indicated that restyling an existing stadium such as Cinergy Field to make it a state-of-the-art facility is not necessarily a long-term solution because of changing market conditions.

Hamilton County officials visited the stadium project over the weekend and came away impressed.

A baseball source told the Enquirer Monday that officials fear such a Cinergy renovation would cost about $200 million, nearly as much as the $230 million new ballpark the Reds have proposed to Hamilton County.

In Mr. Uhlich's view, Cleveland's Jacobs Field and Baltimore's Camden Yards, often cited as the best of the new ballparks, could appear obsolete in just a few decades.

''It's going to change. That's just the way we do business,'' Mr. Uhlich said recently. ''If you get 30 years out of a building, you've done pretty well. By that time, you're looking for something different.''

As an example, Mr. Uhlich cited New York's fabled Yankee Stadium, which underwent an extensive renovation in 1974-75. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has loudly declared his dissatisfaction with the historic ballpark, which sits in a neighborhood many fans shun and lacks a plethora of revenue-generating luxury boxes.

''It's outdated,'' Mr. Uhlich said. ''Unfortunately, it (an upgrade) doesn't last for long.''

The wire frame and rock work beyond the left field fence will become an artificial geyser that shoots water when an Angel hits a home run.

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Nevertheless, the Walt Disney Co., which owns the Angels, expects the Anaheim ballpark project to pay huge dividends. So intent is Disney on succeeding that Chairman Michael Eisner recently added $15 million to the company's investment, increasing costs to $115 million. The city of Anaheim is contributing $20 million to the 18-month project, which began in September 1996 and continued through the 1997 baseball season with work that didn't interfere with games.

An Angels-Los Angeles Dodgers exhibition game will christen the renovated ballpark on March 27.

Fans arriving there will find many of the amenities typical of Jacobs Field, Camden Yards and others in the modern ballpark genre: Food courts, interactive games for kids, picnic areas, sports apparel stores and 78 luxury suites. In the dugout-level suites, the concourse will offer a view of the indoor batting cages hitters use for practice. Seven artificial geysers in center field will erupt when an Angel hits a home run.

Anaheim's saga probably would sound familiar to Cincinnatians who have followed the Reds' snarled plans for a stadium. Taxpayers and politicians had no intention of assuming most of the costs for a new ballpark, which would have exceeded $300 million.

But a significant difference separates Anaheim Stadium from Cinergy Field: Anaheim Stadium opened in 1966 as a baseball-only stadium, with a grandstand curling to the foul lines.

The stadium was enclosed in 1980 to accommodate the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, hiking the seating capacity to nearly 70,000 but spoiling any aesthetic appeal the park had. The Rams left for St. Louis in 1995.

Builders and ballclub officials received a pleasant surprise when they studied the prospect of a makeover for Anaheim Stadium.

''The sightlines were comparable to Camden Yards, and our internal structure was very comparable,'' Mr. Uhlich said ''It was almost an exact overlay. So we thought that we would go ahead and be able to do some neat things for a relatively smaller amount of money than a new stadium would cost. It has worked out really well for us.''

The Reds and Major League Baseball are skeptical about the feasibility of transforming the bowl-shaped, dual-purpose Cinergy into a cozy, old-style baseball-only park.

''The big difference is the sightlines,'' the source said. ''How can you move the (luxury suites) and club seats closer to the field? How can you move the upper deck closer to the field? We know the differences going in at Anaheim and Cinergy. It makes it seem even more uncertain it can be accomplished.''

Geoff Hobson contributed to this report.

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