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Normal baseball stadium plans revealed

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Normal baseball stadium plans revealed
Here is an aerial view of preliminary site design for a new stadium at Heartland Community College in Normal. The drawing was unveiled Tuesday, July 29, 2008, at the college. (Pantagraph/CARLOS T. MIRANDA)

NORMAL - Architectural plans and site designs for a new stadium at Heartland Community College were unveiled Tuesday, and the emphasis was on "open, green spaces."

Jonathan Cole, co-owner of the Kansas City-based design firm Pendulum Studio, said the multipurpose stadium will offer something for everyone.

"One of the things that we really looked for in this project was to create a community green space," Cole said. "In a ballpark you can have a lot of closed space and big buildings. But 75 percent of your game-day experience is on the outside, the exterior of the ballpark.

"It's being able to see what's going on on the field from many different vantage points. We really wanted to make it something people in the community could walk up to and be proud of."

Mike Veeck, a member of the ownership group that will field a Frontier League baseball team in the stadium in the spring of 2010, termed the design "riveting."

"If a picture's worth a thousand words, and if that's really true, then what you're going to see is a ballpark design that is unlike any other one in the country," Veeck said of the unveiling of drawings of the stadium. "That's a wonderful thing to be able to say because that's how we garnish some attention from this project.

"There are only two moments in a project's life that are real. The moment that you can see - that you don't have to visualize it - and the moment that you hear the laughter coming out of that building."

The construction cost of the stadium, which will also house Heartland's baseball, softball and soccer teams, will be $12 million, according to Veeck. Construction is expected to begin this fall on the artificial turf playing surface so it will be ready by the spring of 2009 for the start of Heartland's seasons.

The stadium structure will then be built with a target completion date in February 2010.

"It's been four months from the moment I went to (Normal) City Hall and had a meeting," Veeck said. "I've never been involved in a deal four months from coming into a town and being to the stage we are, certainly not in my 35 years in the business.

"Maybe we can show the way public and private and quasi-governmental (institutions) can actually work together and do something wonderful."

The stadium will feature an opening directly behind home plate with 14 suites stretching down the first and third base lines. There will be a walkway circling the entire stadium and a spacious concourse with dining and family areas.

Veeck said there will be 4,000 fixed seats plus up to 2,000 more in family-friendly grass berm areas.

The outfield area will be anchored by the scoreboard and grass berms. It also will house the team administrative offices, locker rooms, a concert area, a picnic area, a children's playground and classrooms.

Cole, who has also worked on the design of O'Brien Field in Peoria and the Oakland Coliseum, said drivers on Interstate 55 will have a prime view of the facility.

"One of the things we wanted to do with the design was to make sure as you're driving through on the highway, the transparency of this building would be striking," Cole said. "You'll be able to look right down into the green spaces."

Veeck said he expects to announce a naming rights deal for the stadium in the next month to coincide with the official groundbreaking ceremony. He also said there will be a contest for naming the team and that fans will be able submit suggestions for the team logo.

Once the naming rights and suite deals are finalized, Veeck said the staffing of the team's front office will begin.

"The moment we put the shovels in the ground and we know this is a done deal, then the front office will be set up," Veeck said. "We'll be in town by the end of September if the next couple of weeks go the way we think."

Stadium facts

Location: Heartland Community College campus

Construction cost: $12 million

Architect: Pendulum Studio, Kansas City, Mo.

Engineer: Farnsworth Group

Capacity: 4,000 fixed seats, 250 on suite level, 1,500 to 2,000 on grass berms


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