It hasn't garnered much attention yet, but today, we have a nice piece in the Times from Stephen Nohlgren about ETFE materials could potentially bring the cost of a new stadium down from that $500-$600 million mark so frequently tossed around.
"Miami is an enclosed stadium with a hard deck and (is) air-conditioned. It is designed that way,'' (Mike Wekesser, lead designer on Target Field and now sports design director of the architectural firm AECOM) says. "You could bring down the cost — I don't know by how much — by using lighter material. You would bring down the tonnage of steel, and in Tampa Bay, concrete. It is one of the biggest costs in any stadium.''What Nohlgren didn't address is how teams in Southern cities like Miami and Phoenix seldom even use their retractable roofs on summer nights because it's so hot.
Some interior spaces, such as luxury suites, always need AC. Admitting enough light to support natural grass could conflict with providing enough shade for fans. And in Florida, hurricane standards come into play.
Still, "I think you can find a way to put a skin on a new ballpark that does not have to be retractable,'' Wekesser says. "The roof could be more like a canopy or umbrella, with side ventilation so air could pass through. The edges could be opaque enough to get shade. It could have that open-air feel of old-time baseball.
A good point was also made by Matthew Brown in a five-part Stadiafile series - often echoed by the Rays - that "clubs must remain ambitious and creative, retractable roofs or not, in their quest to create the best and most exciting ballparks possible to cater to and help craft future fans."
So the good news for Tampa Bay is that we may only be looking at a $400-$500 million price tag for a state-of-the-art new stadium instead of $500-$600 million. The bad news is, the region still falls far short of paying for a fixed-roof stadium without the majority coming from the Rays or MLB.