Sunday, April 26, 2009

Part 3: Grandstand Tests

With a successful scoreboard test completed (granted I still needed to expand the flagpole), I moved on to some grandstand prototypes. Considering I was already in about $100 with only a scoreboard to show for it, I became more aware that efficiency was going to be as important in my design as anything else.

I went through four different prototypes before I settled on a design that offered maximum efficiency without sacrificing strength - after all, these grandstand pieces will eventually hold up the skybox level, press box, upper deck, light towers, etc. so they'll have to be strong and sturdy. They'll also have to seat many hundreds, probably thousands, of mini spectators.

The grandstand sections near first and third base will also have to incorporate dugouts - so I started playing with those designs as well. These pics show the grandstand design that I ultimately settled on, along with some first concepts of the dugout (shown with the top pulled off, but complete with Gatorade bottles on the back shelf) and first concepts of the short brick wall the circles the field. I will likely keep several elements of this dugout in the final design - I'm less happy with the bricks. I will keep trying different colors and approaches to that feature.

Discovering how to most effectively and efficiently build the grandstand was a huge second step. I'll likely tear this one down to build it even more efficiently in it's final design, but that will take only a fraction of the time it took to build this one. Considering the time it took to construct this one, and the three lesser models that came before it, it took about 12 hours to discover how to build the grandstand. This last model would be one of seven just like it. It contains approximately 3500 pieces, including 200 individual seats. Lego only makes a few colors of seats, and green isn't one of them - that's a problem I'll have to solve eventually as Wrigley's seats are dark green.

I've started buying some pieces for some of the other elements to come including the ticket booths, windows, and outside elements that can been seen from the corner of Clark & Addison. Total cost so far is around $400. I'm definitely going to start having to find deals on some old used Legos because the cost of buying them new will grow pretty rapidly. Unless I find some used ones or a new source to buy through, I'm projecting the total cost of the project to push about $4,000! But it is a lot of fun, and a great stress relief.

Part 2: Where to Begin?

Once I had gathered and sorted hundreds of pics from Flickr, and visited Google Earth to confirm the layout, placement and counts of the houses on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, I had to determine what to build first.

It seemed apparent that I should choose one of the more detailed elements, build it, and then let it determine the scale for all of the other elements to correspond to. After a few considerations, I determined that the scoreboard in centerfield would be the perfect piece to begin with.

I attached one of the pics that I used as a guide to build the scoreboard. In its simplest form, the scoreboard is essentially a giant green rectangle with a black rectangle underneath it. The green rectangle contains white stripes that hold placement for out-of-town scores, along with an area in the center for in-game scoring details. A tall white flagpole extends from the top of the scoreboard.

I used Excel as a grid to draw out each line of bricks that would be needed, and then purchased them at the Lego store or through for the pieces I couldn't find elsewhere. In total I spent about 3-4 hours drawing out the grid in Excel, and ordering the pieces I would need. Once the pieces arrived a week later I started building.

Attached is a pic of the first attempt at the scoreboard. It will be completed with decals that will say National, Out, Strike, etc. in fine detail. Those details were too small to build with Legos - though I did try to design for that and in order to use bricks to spell out the words the scoreboard would end up being about 6 feet tall by about 10 feet wide. Granted, this thing will be big enough when finished...

This scoreboard contains approximately 2200 individual pieces and was built in about 2 hours once I had all of the right pieces. That seemed about right to me that it would take twice as long to design as it would to actually build. I was also pleased that it turned out pretty much like I expected to. Excel certainly isn't designed for Lego models - but my guesses at the cell height and width turned out to be pretty accurate. Gosh, have you ever read anything more geek-like than this last paragraph?

The cost of the pieces just for the scoreboard was around $90. I need to make the flagpole bigger - that will likely cost another $5 in pieces as well to make it taller, wider, and to add more flags blowing. I'll also have to add the small lights that run across the top of it. This is going to be expensive...

Part 1: Birth of the Project

A few weeks back we took our 4-year-old daughter to Legoland. She had a great time, but I think Dad had an ever better time! I was fascinated by the miniature versions of Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and D.C. (see pic). It took me back to my childhood days of playing with Legos - which were among my favorite toys (Star Wars and baseball cards being the others). But I had never conceived of building anything of such scale with them - and the thought of that was very intriguing and challenging to me. I commented to my extremely talented and beautiful wife (I know she'll read this) while we were there that the mini-cities were somewhat incomplete without the sports stadiums. That's when it dawned on me that building a stadium could be my project!

I kicked the idea around for a couple of weeks after we returned - not sure whether or not I wanted to get involved in such a large-scale project. It seemed a little impractical - it would certainly take up a lot of time and money, and given the economy (and the fact that I work in financial services!) the timing didn't seem right. But something told me I could do it, and that I should do it. Then I heard a voice - it said "if you build it, he will come." Just kidding - but I did quickly come to realize that this was going to be my Field of Dreams. I'm in my mid thirties, I really don't think my dream of playing professional baseball is going to happen, and I don't necessarily have a reputation for doing impractical things or taking huge risks (I can get sick on a playground swing). So instead of plowing under my corn and building a field in the middle of Iowa, I'm going to invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars building one that I won't be able to do anything with other than look at it - and yet I can't wait to get started!

As a Twins fan, the Metrodome was obviously the first consideration. But let's face it, its a monstrosity of a stadium - a giant concrete and plastic dump. I love that stadium for the memories I have of it, but as a physical strucuture its awful and I can't transform my memories into anything I can build out of Legos. So I next thought about building Fenway Park (Boston) so that I could build the Green Monster and the other elements of the Red Sox 97 year-old ballpark. But as I thought through all of the elements, the only piece outside of the stadium itself worth creating would be the giant Citgo sign beyond left-center field.

The thought of incorporating elements outside of the stadium led me to considering Wrigley - which would provide the opportunity to build not only a stadium, but the surrounding "Wrigleyville" area as well. I visited Flickr and was pleased to find over 46,000 pics of Wrigley and the neighborhood that had been uploaded. It seemed that just about every angle of the park was captured in a pic at their site. As I began scanning through them I became certain that there would be no better stadium project to build. But where to begin?