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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Times Reviews Camelback Ranch

Almost but not quite Citi Field:
Camelback Ranch seemed at risk of qualifying for a Cactus League variant of the bad press that is already hitting bling-encrusted stadiums opening later this year to house the New York Mets ($850-million construction cost), the New York Yankees ($1.5 billion) and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys ($1.1 billion, including a $35-million, 160-foot-long high-def scoreboard).

That was the danger on paper, anyway: timing so monumentally bad that it begins to resemble tone-deafness -- or worse, hubris. Think Merrill Lynch’s John Thain and his $1.2-million bathroom renovation, spring training edition.

And yet in person, Camelback Ranch, designed by the Dallas-based architecture firm HKS, has a surprisingly, winningly low-key and entirely accessible personality. Those qualities bode well for the $500-million architectural upgrade McCourt is planning with HKS and the Los Angeles firms Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale for Chavez Ravine. There, as in Arizona, the key to success will be figuring out how to balance newfangled amenity with informal charm.

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