Thursday, July 12, 2007

Random Thoughts

With Our Washington Nationals still on their All Star Break for one additional day--I wanted to pass along some brief encounters with some Major Players directly involved in the building of New Nationals Park and Our Team. Yesterday, during the Topping Out Ceremony on South Capitol Street, I was able to update some information, not only covering the engineering, but some developments surrounding Our Team and their Fans, especially, when it comes to parking. At the same time, I had the very first opportunity to briefly chat with Mayor Adrian Fenty--moments before he walked to the podium for his words to the gathered Construction Workers and Dignitaries.

So today--Random Thoughts to my Questions--from Ronnie Strumpff, Washington DC Mayor-Adrian Fenty, and Team President Stan Kasten.

Many of you may recall my first tour of the new ballpark this past March. During that tour--Ronnie Strompf, Senior Vice President for Clark Construction, informed me of all the details concerning New Nationals Park. Yesterday--he was kind enough let me know how the erecting of this nice looking structure is coming along.

Since the last time I was here, the buildup has come a long way—can you please give me an update? (SBF)

“You can see for yourself, everything is going great. We are just where we are supposed to be. Its Fun, and quite frankly, pretty exciting. We are moving along on schedule.”

But, you are telling me there have been no complications? (SBF)

“There are always complications, something you did not expect, on a daily basis. If we didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t have general contractors. I am basically the problem solver. And, I tackle each and every one of those problems each and every day. Our Joint Venture Partners and ourselves have done enough Stadiums and large projects, so we anticipate what can go wrong and shore it up really quick. Basically, we are on schedule. This was the (original) date for this ceremony—14 months ago (topping out) and here we are today, watching it happen.”

“All the major milestones have been met either ON TIME, or AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.”

As The On Site Project Manager, what does not mean to you? (SBF)

“There is a tremendous sense of gratification to be heading up a team of contractors that all have their own interests at heart—but getting them to work together in a cohesive force and a team. Its amazing what you can get done here. There has not been a foul word, from any contractors. I have them all working together, helping each other out. Just look at the amount of progress we have done on this job. There is not a spot anywhere where there is no activity. This is a very active place—everyday. To get that type of activity within such a tight workspace and with the city just starting on the roadwork (South Capital Street Bridge)--making our workspace that much tighter—makes this stadium project very challenging--yet rewarding.”

How many trades are working on site right now? (SBF)

“We have over 40 different trades and 700 individual workers here each day right now. That manpower has really been picking up on site as we finish out the Steel and Pre-cast (Concrete)."

Does it hurt this project that Allen Lew (The Former Head of The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission) has left his post, and thus the day to day stewardship of the Stadium Project--for a job overhauling the DC Public Schools? (SBF)

“Not really, we put Greg O’Dell in his place and we know Greg from The DC Convention Center (Involved in its building). He is a very excellent choice, very dedicated to also making this stadium project happen. Honestly, Allen had everything set up so well, its been an easy transformation. No one missed a beat, our contractors pretty much know what they are doing, regardless of who is over there (DCSEC). And, I am not minimizing what Allen has done on this project on behalf of the city.”

April 2008, this stadium will be ready? (SBF)

“Absolutely. I will be here watching that FIRST GAME!!!

Then, my encounter with Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Being the Mayor of DC—what does this project mean to you now? (SBF)

“It’s a very exciting project. This Stadium represents jobs. All those workers on site are fully employed and that’s important to The District. This represents revitalization for an area that has been blighted for some time. It represents a renewal for the land along the Anacostia (River). And, it represents that The District of Columbia stands behind its word and does what it says it’s going to do. We build projects on time. This project is on time and on budget. There is still a lot of work to do. But, we want to work with The Lerner’s and make sure everything happens on time in making this a great project for Our City and Our Country.”

How odd is it for you to be overseeing this project, when you were so opposed to it originally? (SBF)

“Not odd at all. In fact, as a Council Member my only point was that we could have structured a better deal. But, this Stadium was always a good thing. Having The Nationals here is great for Our Civic Pride. And, this is the right place to have them and the revitalization we want to see.”

Have you dealt directly with The Lerner’s and Mr. Kasten? (SBF)

“Oh, yes! Many Times. We have a very good relationship and we are working together.”

Mayor Fenty was being called to the podium, so our brief chat had to end.

Finally, Team President Stan Kasten was kind enough to give me some of his time.

What is more difficult? Building a Great Stadium. Or Building a Great Team? (SBF)

“They are both MASSIVE endeavors. I can’t say one is more difficult than the other. Although, I think we have many, many more Great Stadiums than Great Teams. So, lets just say building a Great Team is a touch more difficult.”

Then, how long did it take to turn The Braves around?

“The process was, I guess, three to four years. It could have been longer, maybe shorter. There is no set rule for it. When I was in Atlanta, it took about 3 or 4 years.”

So, when fans come to this new stadium—should they have some more patience—when it comes to the product on the field?

“First of all. I always stress patience in all endeavors. But, I do think that you are going to see some steady improvement from this club. I think we have (improved) from the start of the year. You will (see that) over the second half of this season, and we certainly will be moving on through the winter and into the new season (2008) in the new ballpark.”

A lot of folks are saying--The Nationals beat expectations in the first half, what can we look forward to in the second half?

“I feel the second half of the season is another important step on the road to building a championship team. I think we had a very good first half in terms of the building process. I expect more of that to continue in the second half—leading into the most important of off seasons as we get to the new ballpark.”

When you first became President of The Washington Nationals, how far down the list was this Topping Off Day. Did it feel like, at that time—a million years away? (SBF)

“It is just amazing that just one year ago, maybe a little more, we were here breaking ground. And, to think we are already topped out. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment. Everyone involved on this Championship Construction Team deserves enormous credit and deserves to feel a lot of pride in the accomplishment.”

Despite all the wrangling to get the original stadium agreement, are you surprised everything has gone so smoothly? (SBF)

“No, the wrangling has you describe—And, this is the third time I have been involved (in a stadium construction)—Go back and look at the so called “WRANGLING”, you will reflect that there was far less here than in almost any of city. In fact, since the little bit of a bumpy start, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Everyone involved deserved much credit for that.”

What does this project mean for the area?

“This area did not have a lot of high end commerce. And, very, very soon—it’s going to be The Part of Town. It’s going to be The Nightlife Area. It’s going to be where everyone—locals and visitors--will want to come and spend their evenings. We (The Nationals) are very proud of being the very small part, we are playing in that.”

How about the “GREEN” (environmentally sound) Stadium?

“Well, we are trying to set an example. We are working hard to get our “Green” Certification. I think we will be successful. Its an important part of what we do. Its an important part of all of our others projects, also. And, WE HOPE that sets a positive example for everyone.”

Can you give me an update on parking and the transportation in and around New Nationals Park with the lowering of the South Capitol Street Bridge?

“It’s going to be greatly improved. That bridge is going to be critically important. It (the lowering to street level) will be done long before the stadium opens. We are working hard every single day, starting with Ted Lerner, in not just getting parking lots, but access to those lots cleared up. And, that also will be done in plenty of time for Opening Day.”

The DC Transportation Commission a few weeks ago—passed, I believe, a temporary permit to allow up to 5000 surface parking spots for The Nationals in lots around the stadium for five years. Is that going through?

“I don’t have an exact number for you. But, I know we have hopes for that many and even more. And, again—we will have all that information, well before Opening Day. And, we will have a MASSIVE publicity campaign to make sure all our customers know where all those locations are.”

So that concludes, Random Thoughts, one day before Our Washington Nationals officially begin their second half of 2007.

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