"I think it's great," said fifth-grader Stevon Hammond.
The 10-year-old was one of about 1,000 students from Polk
Elementary and Douglass High School taking part in Tuesday's ground
breaking in Oklahoma City for the $21 million Bricktown baseball
"My grandma says this is all about the future of Oklahoma City.
It means better and more attractions for people from out of state,
and that will make them want to come back here," Hammond said.
"Grandma" is Willa Johnson, he said.
Oklahoma City Councilwoman Johnson represents Ward 7, which
includes the corner of California and Walnut avenues, the site of
the Bricktown baseball park.
"My grandma talks about MAPS all the time," Hammond said with a
The ballpark is the first of nine major sports and entertainment
facilities planned as part of the $285 million Metropolitan Area
Baseball fans could not have asked for better weather Tuesday.
The sun shone brightly over a mock field set up at the corner of
Stiles and Reno avenues. Backhoes could be heard nearby loading and
dumping rubble and debris from what was once the home for the
Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, the city's
City leaders joined Oklahoma City 89ers co-owners Larry and Bill
Mathis and Bricktown officials in "getting some dust stirred up" as
symbolic spades were used to turn dirt.
Mayor Ron Norick and 89ers President Clay Bennett then threw
ceremonial "first pitches" to University of Oklahoma baseball
catcher Javier Flores.
Joining city council members on the sidelines 1 were baseball Hall
of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and OU football coach Howard
Excavation is under way at the ballpark site, which will be the
89ers' new home when they end a 35-year association with All Sports
Stadium at the state fairgrounds, Bennett said.
Construction of the 12,000-seat stadium is expected to begin in
early December and be finished in time for the 1997 season.
Two more buildings along California Avenue will be razed by the
end of the week, Norick said. A temporary bridge will be set up
across Reno Avenue. Soil removed from the ballpark site will be
used by the Urban Renewal Authority to shore up drainage in an area
along Reno Avenue, the mayor added.
"People are really excited, and a year from now this place is
going to be buzzing," Norick said.
The mayor hailed the ground breaking as "a day citizens have
been waiting for for over two years. And it's one the city council
has been working towards for four years. It's the first step to
make us become one of the major leading cities," Norick said.
Sports consultant Rick Horrow spoke of professional franchises and
called Oklahoma City "a breakthrough city ... the only major urban
area to have an unparalleled funding mechanism in place ... that can
make the NHL stand up and take notice," Horrow said.
As part of the $285 million MAPS plan, all nine venues are
expected to be debt-free when completed, officials said.
Local sports enthusiasts, including Norick and Bennett, recently
visited with officials about landing a National Hockey League team
The Bricktown ballpark will be surrounded by restaurants and
shops in the former industrial warehouse district, designers said.
The main concourse level and lower seating bowl are designed to
hold 7,500, with all seats near food courts. Some 4,500 fans will
be accommodated in traditional seating and 18 private suites.
Also planned are a sports memorabilia shop and a staircase rising to a Hall of Fame Plaza. Team offices will be above a third level, said designers with Architectural Design Group.
© The Oklahoma Publishing Co. and its subsidiary, NewsOK.com.
Article may be downloaded for personal use or research but not for distribution.