Special Report: A look at El Paso's ballpark

Project manager unveils preliminary drawings

EL PASO, Texas -

The demolition of El Paso's City Hall will soon be upon us. And once that happens, a Triple-A baseball park will go up in its place.

City engineer and project manager Alan Shubert rolled out the plans for the downtown ballpark during an interview with ABC-7 Jan. 24. It was the first detailed look at what the city hopes the park will look like. Shubert stressed that the images were preliminary and subject to change.

"They wanted to make it look like a train canopy," said Shubert, pointing to a colored diagram depicting the metal awning topping the seats.

Shubert explained that the designers wanted the ballpark to fit in with existing structures and architecture downtown. So the steel beams resembled a train platform, boxcar-style designs lined an exterior wall, and a clock tower all looked as though they were inspired by the Union Station train depot blocks from where the ballpark will stand.

Inside the park, Shubert pointed to a schematic of a grassy berm beyond the outfield where designers envisioned families picnicking during a game. He also talked about how the city would like to have dedicated space inside the entrance to the park where an art project depicting El Paso's baseball history would be housed.

"We want people to see an image of the ballpark on TV and recognize that this is El Paso's ballpark," said Shubert.

Other illustrations showed the ballpark would be open, allowing passersby to enjoy an inning from the street.

"This is the view if you're going down Franklin Street. You'll look right in that gate," Shubert explained, pointing to an open space in a fence with a view of the field.

While it seems as though the engineers are fairly confident of the end vision, a lot needs to happen before El Pasoans can take in a game.

"We don't have a hard timeline. We have a hard finish line," said Shubert. "Obviously, the date we need to complete it by is April 2014."

April 2014 marks opening day in the Pacific Coast League, the league with which El Paso's Triple-A team will be associated. From now until then, expect 15 months of fast-paced construction.

"We have some milestones figured out. We know that we want to have the building down by the end of March, if we can," said Shubert, later adding that the City Hall relocation plan has the remaining departments moving out until March 31, 2013, and demolition may actually happen in early April of this year.

Even though City Hall is being torn down in a matter of weeks, the timeline for what happens next is not cemented. Shubert maintained during multiple conversations that most of the project is still in the planning stages and that estimated milestones for the foundation to be laid, or the structure to be framed, won't be known for another few weeks.

A rough timeline of what will happen includes the City Hall demolition in April -- Shubert warned drivers that Interstate 10 will be temporarily shut down during the demolition due to the building's proximity to the freeway -- and the clearing of the site by the end of that month. Shubert said the first sign of construction will be a large, 20- to 25-foot retaining wall that will line Missouri Street, which will be narrowed and converted to a one-way street during the process. That retaining wall will also serve as the outfield wall.

Other aspects of the ballpark, like steel beams for framing the structure and elevators, will be fabricated off-site and shipped in from out of town once complete.

Shubert was apologetic that he couldn't supply a more firm timeline of what El Pasoans can expect to see building up downtown, saying he expects more concrete details once bid packages for concrete and mechanical needs are returned and rewarded. That won't happen for the next few months.

"We've got the conceptual design figured out," said Shubert. "It's the detailed design where they start putting lines on paper. Where the beams are going, where the foundations are going, plumbing, mechanical things are going."

Shubert said he also hopes to have a better idea of a timeline once he takes a presentation with the designs before City Council. That was initially supposed to happen Feb. 5 but has been removed from the proposed agenda and will be added on sometime this month.

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