Monday, February 05, 2001

Fans won't see cost-cutting in new ballpark

'Value engineering' balances costs, amenities

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Great American Ball Park isn't all it was when architects unveiled the initial design in May. Construction managers have cut corners to the tune of $12.8 million at the Reds' new home to keep finances in line after steel and concrete bids came in a combined $13.2 million over budget.

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Construction on the Great American Ball Park goes on simultaneously with the renovation of Cinergy Field.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        Figuring out what to cut is done through a process known as “value engineering,” and it will continue until the new stadium opens in 2003, said project manager Arnie Rosenberg.

        Fans won't notice many of the changes to the $330 million facility: metal lockers instead of wood in the visiting team's locker room (a savings of $83,000), no termite control at the service level ($25,000) and no stained concrete floor finish ($14,000).

        But some of the deletions would be obvious, if compared to the original design. Some examples:

        • Making the stadium club one level instead of two, saving $780,000.

        • Installing laminated counter tops in the stadium party suites instead of stone counter tops, saving $39,000.

        • Ceramic tile floors instead of stone in the suites, saving $123,000.

        • Building two escalators instead of three in the Reds' Hall of Fame, saving $81,000.

        • Cheaper metal used at concession stands, saving $500,000.

        John Allen, the team's chief operating officer, said there are only a few things off limits when going through the process.

        “We're at the point where we don't want seating capacity to be reduced,” he said. “We are very cautious to protect those things that will generate revenue.

        “And most importantly, we won't do anything at all with public safety. Those are the primary things.”

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What it will look like
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        Eric Schreiner, construction manager for Hunt Construction, said the amount of deductions from Great American Ball Park is in line with other stadiums his company has built — Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, Safeco Field in Seattle and Miller Park in Milwaukee.

        “You can fulfill design requirements in a wide range of costs,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “This is part of the natural process.”

        Last week, Mr. Rosenberg appeared before Hamilton County commissioners and told them “aggressive” value engineering has allowed them to keep the ballpark on budget.

        Hamilton County taxpayers will spend a maximum of $280 million for the ballpark itself. Anything over that must be deleted from the park or paid for by the Reds. Tax money also will be used to modify, and then tear down, Cinergy Field.

        In addition to value engineering, Reds officials have agreed to pay for several items at the ballpark themselves.

        The cost of statues in the Crosley Terrace, for example, will be footed by the team at $500,000. Likewise, the Reds will pay for food service equipment at $1.4 million.

        Mr. Allen said the team picked carefully which items to pay for.

        “On the monuments, we want to go through our own search process and select our own vendor rather than going through a competitive bid,” Mr. Allen said. “And we want to select our own vendor on the food service.”

        But value engineering isn't all about taking stuff out — items also can be added during the process.

        A picnic area building will be constructed in the ballpark at a cost of $350,000. Two mosaics will be painted in the terrace level concourse for $200,000.

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        The new ballpark will seat 42,000 when it opens in time for the 2003 season. Meantime, the Reds will play in a dramatically remodeled Cinergy Field, with a grass playing field and a portion of the stadium's east side torn out.

        The revamped Cinergy is so dramatic, in fact, that Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has suggested that the new ballpark not be built at all. Instead, the Reds could continue playing at Cinergy, allowing the county to pay off the debt for Paul Brown Stadium more quickly, he said.

        The idea has support from Commissioner John Dowlin, but the Reds would have to agree to the notion for it to ever succeed.

        That appears unlikely.

        A source close to Reds' owner Carl Lindner said over the weekend that the team would have no interest in Mr. Portune's proposal. Although Reds officials said such an idea might have made sense two or three years ago, they are now commited to the new stadium.

        The project's tight budget is still worrisome to Mr. Portune.

        “My concern is what happens when you can do no more value engineering,” he said. “We may have to take on a much greater financial burden. What does that mean, long-term, to the financial interests of the team or our ability to complete a first-class project?”

        Cliff Peale of the Enquirer contributed to this report.


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