Nation’s dream still elusive as Taipei Dome fate in limbo
Is the ill-fated Taipei Dome doomed to fall after the city government concluded an evaluation on the closed baseball stadium’s safety standards by suggesting that it might have to be demolished?
The citizens’ knee-jerk reaction would probably concur with the city government’s conclusion, agreeing that the stadium should go if it cannot cope with an emergency.
But they might have second thoughts after factoring in the possible consequences: the city might have to spend billions buying back all structures in the project from the contractor, namely Farglory, only to tear them down; and there would be the utter disappointment that their decadesold dream of having an iconic closed baseball stadium would remain a dream after coming so close to making it a reality.
Actually the ordinary people only have scant information allowing them to decide whether the safety facilities of the Taipei Dome park — which consist of, apart from the baseball stadium, a shopping mall, a movie theater complex, a hotel and a commercial building — can’t really cope with an emergency.
According to the city government’s computer simulations — made public along with the evaluation report on Thursday — evacuation of all 142,000 people when the structures of the park are fully occupied could not be completed inside an hour in an emergency.
And there will not be enough open space in the park itself to accommodate all the evacuees.
It sounds scary imagining that you’re trapped inside a burning stadium for more than an hour.
But Farglory would not have any of the city evaluations or suggestions for improvements.
Farglory claims that its own computer simulations show that an evacuation on such a massive scale could be completed in about 26 minutes. The open space in the park itself may not be enough to accommodate all 142,000 people evacuated from the structures, but Farglory says the city government is wrong in assuming that the evacuated people would stay in the park without moving onto the neighboring areas in an emergency.
The contractor also argues that the city’s simulations are for a full evacuation from all structures in a worst-case scenario. It likens the situation to a person who has contracted five kinds of cancer before being hit by a car — which it says is very unlikely to happen.
Is the city government overly strict in its evaluation? Or is Farglory overly confident in its design? We can hardly tell.
The city government has spelled out two solutions: either to dismantle the stadium and keep the other structures for public use; or keep the stadium and remove the shopping mall.
But Farglory has vowed not to tear down anything, not even a single wall of the project. If the city government insists on carrying out either of the two solutions, it will have to buy back the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project, which could cost billions.
The contractor, however, says it remains open to talks with the city government to find a feasible solution.
Unless the city government admits that it has made a mistake in its computer simulations, it has to stand by the evaluation report. But are there any options other than the two given to Farglory without compromising public safety, which the city gives top priority in the row?
The two sides might eventually go to court to settle the dispute, which could take years and last beyond the maximum eight-year stint of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je.
The court proceedings could put the project in limbo: construction would not continue, nor would demolition proceed.
And the dream of Taipei’s citizens — and probably of the entire nation — would remain elusive.