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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will be ready to play ball for the first time Tuesday, but only because of a late-inning rally by construction crews and city inspectors inside the main stadium.
Fans should see few, if any, signs of lingering construction when gates open at 11 a.m. But there's a chance the city might not issue the stadium's initial certificate of occupancy until this afternoon -- less than 24 hours before the Washington Nationals throw the first pitch at 1:05 p.m. in the inaugural game against the Houston Astros.
"This is something we're going to take down to the wire it appears," said Rick Greene, West Palm Beach's development service director.
"But I see no reason why they can't throw out that first pitch on Tuesday. If there's a portion of a room that needs to be closed until something is done, that might happen, but it's not going to involve shutting down the right field line."
City inspectors agreed to work side by side with construction crews over the weekend, signing off on odds and ends inside the 6,500-seat main stadium and making sure it's ready Tuesday when the first beers are poured and toilets flushed.
"Our focus now is the second-level concourse where fans will be watching the game and getting that complete. But most of the heavy stuff is done," Greene said.
By today, the city should be able to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy, which will allow the stadium to open to the public.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they took another month or two after spring training to get the final CO," he said.
Greene said Hunt Construction, Straticon Construction and their subcontractors have done a remarkable job finishing in roughly 15 months a $150 million project that normally would take two years.
Work on the 160-acre site, a former trash dump at Military Trail south of 45th Street, started Nov. 9, 2015. Since September, crews have worked 20-hour days. At its peak, more than 650 workers were on site every day.
"It has been an ambitious schedule,'' Greene said.
Despite the frantic pace, the teams and contractors have been cooperative and cordial with the city, said Greene, who said he often cracked jokes during weekly update meetings.
"I told the Washington folks I want to take batting practice off (Nationals ace) Max Scherzer," he said. "When we gave them their (construction) permit for the stadium, I told them if they read the fine print they will see that I get to be the starting third baseman. They said no."
As of Friday, the teams had released few details about Tuesday's opening-game ceremonies, other than participation by elected officials from Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach.
The national anthem will be sung by Jessica Fishenfeld, a soprano with the Palm Beach Opera. Derrek Stark, a tenor with the opera, will sing "God Bless America" during the 7th-inning stretch.
Parking lots open at 9 a.m. and will cost $10 per car, with entrances off Haverhill Road and Military Trail. Valet parking is available for $20.
Tailgating is not permitted on ballpark lots and consumption of alcohol is prohibited inside cars on ballpark lots.
Fans entering the ballpark will walk through a security scanning booth, as part of a new Major League Baseball requirement at all Grapefruit and Cactus league stadiums.
Tickets for the first game still were available Friday, mainly outfield reserve and the grass berm.
For more information, go to ballparkpalmbeaches.com or call 877-935-5668.
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