LESSON IN ECONOMICS
Eight years ago, at a price of $31.6 million, Houston completed its 50,000-seat Astrodome. New Orleans' 75,000-seat Superdome, now under construction, will cost at least $150 million, maybe as much as $200 million. Meanwhile, in this year of escalating costs, Seattle is building an enclosed 65,000-seat structure for a piddling $43 million. It is now 15% complete and should be finished in January 1975.
John Spellman, King County executive, explained how it was possible these days to build a domed arena so cheaply.
"In order to hold costs to a minimum," he said, "our architectural and engineering teams had to devise new methods. They started taking bids a year ago because of rising costs. They broke everything into components and bid each one separately.
"For instance, we bought 34 boxcar-sized air-conditioning units, manufactured separately and shipped to the site. The units will be mounted at the stadium instead of a huge unit being built at the site. That was a big saving. So was the dome itself, which will cost $5 million. We found that the best and cheapest covering for the dome was a thin skin of concrete, which will be poured in forms."
Whereas the New Orleans stadium includes a parking garage and separate meeting rooms for large conventions, Seattle plans to provide only 3,000 on-site parking spaces and will have no arena provisions for conventions. But parking will be no great problem. The King County structure is just a few blocks from downtown, with maybe 30,000 parking spaces available.
Nor will Seattle match the Astrodome in spectator comfort. All seats will have backs but only 15,000 will be cushioned. Seattle also expects advertisers and operators of professional football and baseball teams to finance the scoreboard, and concessionaires will have to build their own kitchens and sales stands.
" Baltimore is considering building a domed stadium," Spellman said, "and they've already had our architects and engineers in as consultants."
Moral: Build a cheaper domed stadium and the world will come to you.
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