By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
A Lucas County committee recommended yesterday that a team led by HNTB Architects, a Kansas City firm, be put in charge of designing a new Mud Hens stadium.
“They have a real vision of what the Warehouse District can be,” Commissioner Harry Barlos said.
Mr. Barlos heads the 19-member committee that heard presentations from three firms seeking the Mud Hen contract. After 90 minutes of deliberations, the committee ranked HNTB as its first choice, above two other Kansas City firms, HOK Sports and Devine deFlon Yaeger Architects.
For the Mud Hens stadium, HNTB will be teaming up with The Collaborative, a local architecture firm, and Finkbeiner Pettis & Strout, a local engineering firm.
The ranking means that Tom Chema, the county’s consultant on the stadium project, will begin negotiating with HNTB officials on the cost of retaining the company’s services. Mr. Chema said he hopes the two sides will be able to reach a broad agreement on costs in the next five days.
HNTB has designed more than a dozen stadiums around the country; five of its minor-league parks open this spring. Among the new parks are a $14.7 million stadium in Dayton and a $26 million stadium in Louisville. It designed the stadium in Lansing that Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has said he would like the Mud Hens stadium to resemble.
Mr. Barlos said that HNTB’s proposal shows a stronger commitment to integrating the stadium into the Warehouse District.
“They showed a passionate interest in the urban landscape,” he said.
Although the firms were not asked to submit a full stadium design for yesterday’s presentations, HNTB presented conceptual sketches that integrated several Warehouse District buildings into the stadium’s design.
“This project impacts a huge part of downtown and the Warehouse District, two or three blocks in every direction,” said Robert Fessler, the project’s leader at The Collaborative. “We’re very excited.”
Mr. Fessler said his company would be in charge of interior design and landscaping, while HNTB will be lead architects on the stadium structure.
Mr. Chema said a stadium architect is usually paid between 6 and 9 per cent of the stadium’s construction cost. In the Mud Hens’ case, construction is expected to take up roughly $25 million of the project’s $37 million budget. He said that the firm hired probably will be paid “slightly more” than $1.5 million.
But county officials were quick to point out that all three firms made excellent presentations, and if Mr. Chema is unable to reach an acceptable agreement with HNTB, the county would be satisfied with selecting either of the other two.
“We couldn’t make a mistake here, because they’re all excellent firms,” Mr. Chema said.
HNTB is involved in another major Toledo project as a consultant on the design of the new I-280 Maumee River crossing.
The firm has done work on the Mud Hens project before. V/Gladieux Enterprises, the company that owns the Toledo Sports Arena, hired HNTB and The Collaborative to create a development proposal for a new stadium on the Sports Arena site and an arena on Summit Street downtown.
Mr. Chema eventually rejected the Sports Arena proposal in favor of the stadium’s current proposed site, between Monroe, Washington, Huron, and St. Clair streets.
The county commissioners are scheduled to make the final decision on which firm to hire on Jan. 25. Mr. Chema said that after the selection is made, the county will hold several public hearings to get input on the stadium.
Construction is scheduled to start in October, with work completed in time for the 2002 baseball season.