THE LONG good sigh.

Who knows when it stopped mattering if the first day of the year ushered in apocalyptic madness or anticlimactic peace. What mattered was the wait was over, with everyone letting out a collective sigh of relief.

With all the two-digit focus, however, barely a thought could be spared for the next 365 days. Or could it? People are planning bridges, composing librettos, building baseball parks and training Olympic-style.

Last year, TimeOut featured “99 Things to Look Forward to in ’99.” For this numerically challenged year, we had a choice between “00 Things” or “2000 Things.” While there was far too much bounty to ignore, we were too busy stowing water bottles and toilet paper (you know, just in case) for that big of a list. Twenty is a nice number and besides, taking things easy is one thing to look forward to this year.

1.Calling all baseball fans

What better way to commemorate the opening of a new ballpark than beating some Los Angeles boys? With the old Candlestick Park winds roaring out like a lion and the new Pacific Bell Park coming in like a spring lamb, the first pitch goes over home plate 1:05 p.m. April 11. Technically, there will be an exhibition game March 31 against Milwaukee, then the hometown Giants boys will see who’s the April Fool with a game the next day against two-time defending world champions the New York Yankees. This might be the only time that the hot dogs can be guaranteed fresh. By the way, more than 28,000 season tickets already have sold for Pac Bell Park’s inaugural season, more than half of which will be day games.

  1. A bridge not too far

At last, Bay Area bridges will be getting into retro. This month, Caltrans should be announcing the contractor who will break ground for the new western span of the Carquinez bridge, with an estimated 2003 completion date. The nearby Richmond-San Rafael bridge retrofit is due to begin this year as well, with about the same completion date. Meanwhile, over at the third-worst commute corridor, the four-lane San Mateo bridge is set to become six lanes by 2002, and the Interstate 880 approach to the toll plaza gets a little extra room as well. Finally, after a post-Loma Prieta decade of squabbling, the eastern span of the Bay Bridge just might get started this year, with opening day in 2004. With all this activity, maybe the best news is the planned trial run of a “smart fare card” that will work with AC Transit, BART, CalTrain, Golden Gate Transit, San Francisco Muni and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

  1. Presidential elections

Term limits have dictated that 2001 has to begin with a brand-new president. Given the constant Starr-y eyed scrutiny of the Clinton administration, these elections should be relatively innocuous, what with these “they’re-all-nice-guys-once-you-get-to-k now-them-but-not-their-platforms” candidates. The only suspense might be whether Al Gore will try to divert media attention from Bill Bradley’s heart condition with his old computer mouse injury, and if John McCain will dive from the path of an oncoming train full of nuclear waste to compete with George W. Bush’s Dumpster-truck dive.

  1. They’re gonna make it after all

Can one go home again? Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) and Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) find out in their return to ABC prime time with a February movie. Maybe the best female friendship in television history, it was a sweet alliance of an optimistic TV news producer and her wisecracking Jewish window-dressing friend and upstairs neighbor. In 1974, Harper left to star in one of the many spin-offs of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”; this one was appropriately named “Rhoda” (which featured Julie Kavner as her sister; the actress later became the voice of Marge Simpson in the Fox animated series “The Simpsons”). If these Seventies’ friends can translate their charm to the present day, a sitcom may emerge.

  1. Smashing gourds and shooting flowers

The Smashing Pumpkins and Guns N’ Roses have albums slated for the first part of 2000. The Pumpkins are set to release “MACHINA/The Machines of God” in February, while only mild-mannered Axl Rose knows when GNR’s album will come out, though he promises it will happen. After firing the rest of GNR since the band’s last release seven years ago, Rose has been reportedly scouring Los Angeles for musicians patient enough to deal with his humble attitude in the recording studio. The new century hopefully gets better from there.

  1. Book this date

Mark your calendars for April 11 when the Times Book Club celebrates its third year with its always-popular Anniversary Gala. Leader Lynn Carey has already lined up five spectacular authors whose identities will remain anonymous until the spring thaw. Tickets sold out the first year, and the second year they went so quickly the gala had to be moved to 800-seat auditorium in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts. All that and dessert, too.

  1. Dunkin’ doughboys

Was it only last year that a six-month lockout interrupted the traditional gathering of tall men? The NBA All-Star comes Feb. 11-13 to Oakland. The same weekend that the millionaire players’ club comes to the Arena, “NBA Inside Stuff” co-hosts Ahmad Rashad and Summer Sanders will host a special from the Cow Palace in San Francisco to honor 200,000 teens who have volunteered more than 1 million hours of community service through the NBA TeamUp program. TV networks NBC, TNT, BET and Nickelodeon and Web site www.NBA.com will simulcast the show, which will feature NBA All-Stars and celebrities.

  1. We all scream for Ikea

This bit of news actually appeared prematurely, it turned out last year in TimeOut’s “99 Things to Look Forward to in ’99”. But it bears repeating as that Scandinavian, do-it-yourself furniture store Ikea attracts thousands of home furnishing pilgrims to its various locations. Los Angeles has one, heck, even Pennsylvania has one. The ground has long been broken in Emeryville, the hiring signs are up and April promises to be the opening.

  1. The day the Earth stood up for itself

Earth naturally is a few billion years older than the day proclaimed in its honor, but nevertheless the 30th coming of Earth Day on April 22 should be momentous. More than 500 million people from around the, well, Earth are expected to participate, not bad for a concept that started with Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson and an idea for an “Environmental Teach-in” on American college campuses. The 10th anniversary of Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. In 1990, the concept went truly global with the United Nations Earth Summit. Get involved or get started, and head starts can be had by looking up www.earthday.net.

  1. All that glitters is the Gold Rush

Shouldn’t sesquicentennial be about 6,666 times easier to spell than millennium? The year 1850 marks the official start of the California Gold Rush, which led not only to our state motto (Eureka) but our state nickname (the Golden State), our most popular water passageway (Golden Gate) and this year’s celebrations throughout the state. In Northern California this means anything from “Gold Discovery Day” on Jan. 24 at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Coloma, to the “Pony Express Reride” galloping in June from Sacramento to St. Joseph, Mo. For details, check out http://gocalif.ca.gov/sesq. And remember, don’t get confused with sesquipedalianial that has to do with long words.

  1. Pictures worth 150 to a million words

In a collision of time and exhibit space, the Oakland Museum will feature “Photography in California: Gold Rush to Millennium.” Besides successfully packing two eras in one, the museum will feature the earliest surviving daguerreotypes taken in California. On display also will be photographs from its internationally renowned collection, which includes works by Dorothea Lange and other 20th century masters. The exhibit runs from Sept. 9 to Jan. 21, 2001.

  1. Show tunes

A plethora of prize-winning shows fills the void left behind by “The Phantom of the Opera.” “Fosse” brings the renowned Broadway choreographer and director of stage and film, Bob Fosse, from behind the scenes to the limelight. “Wit,” a first play by Margaret Edson, won a Pulitzer for its story line of an English literature professor dying of cancer; it makes its dramatic entry in May. Two Tony winners will also come to these shores: the mighty “Titanic” in July and “Ragtime” in September.

  1. Jailhouse Aria

Don’t run, but walk fast to get tickets for “Dead Man Walking,” the world premiere of a new American opera based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean. Jake Heggie composed the music and playwright Terrence McNally the libretto, which will be performed by the San Francisco Opera on Oct. 7-28. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham takes on the role of Sister Helen Prejean, baritone John Packard as the convict Joe de Rocher and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade as the inmate’s mother, Mrs. Patrick de Rocher.

  1. Olympics, mates

Is this the quadrennial? Forget the numbers, just know that Sept. 15 opens the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Along with that boisterous Aussie spirit, watch for teeth-clenching competition in swimming, diving, gymnastics, track, basketball, mountain biking, equestrian events, cycling and more. Long before the games begin, Internet users can follow the Olympic flame on the Web site as it traces the longest torchbearer route in Olympic history: Arriving in Australia June 8 from Greece, the torch will be carried by 10,000 torchbearers before its arrival at the Opening Ceremonies of the Games. In Australia, the flame will travel via thousands of pairs of trotting feet, plus by camel, by surfboat and on a Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft in Australia’s remote outback. Flame-peeping on the Web site www.olympics.com/eng begins June 8, but the site is loaded with plenty of Olympic information now.

  1. Hitting the high notes at HBO

There’s even a freakin’ countdown on the HBO Web site (www.hbo.com) to the premiere of “The Sopranos” geez, Louise, hey they’re good, don’t misunderstand us, but even we think that’s a little obsessive. Okay, okay, it starts Jan. 16 at 9 p.m., pronto, so don’t be strolling in late with the remote because they know someone’s watchin’ YOU. Oh, yeah, in the meantime, if you can’t wait, you can put on a nice little Sopranos soundtrack, all freshly pressed on CD. You know, a little Dylan, a little Eurythmics, a little Elvis Costello, of course, not the King (not that the King’s bad, mind you). And, of course, old Blue Eyes, Frankie, my man.

  1. Astronomical proportions

Another repeat visitor from last year’s “99 Things to Look Forward to in ’99,” but the new Chabot Observatory and Science Center is getting closer to completing its 86,000-square-foot, $70 million home in the Oakland hills. It will keep its 8-inch and 20-inch telescopes, but with a new 36-inch reflector, it becomes home to the largest public telescope in the United States. The 250-seat planetarium also promises to take visitors on a technological leap, and a 210-seat, large-screen domed Megamax Science Theatre will give 3-D a whole new interpretation. Then, of course, there will be the teacher-training programs, science labs, multimedia laboratory, a 150-seat outdoor amphitheater, exhibits, space flight simulation and much more. And, of course, there will always be the stars.

  1. Space, the final backlot

Already open in an IMAX theater near you is “Fantasia/2000,” with its orchestral maneuvers and psychedelic animations updated for almost-21st century sensibilities. The Disney opening was a little too early for Dublin’s IMAX theater and the accompanying 20-screen multiplex, but Regal Cinemas should have its own twice-delayed premiere in early spring definitely something to look forward to this year. But basically everywhere you look this year, you’ll be able to leave this rocky promontory behind and be swept up into fantasy and space. Slated to open are movies set on Mars, with Val Kilmer set to be rescued by Carrie-Anne Moss, and powerhouse trio Gary Sinese, Tim Robbins and Don Cheadle investigating a mission disappearance. Speaking of powerhouse trios, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones will be sweeping up dangerous space debris come Memorial Day. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer might go supernatural, Kevin Bacon follows the Chevy Chase route in becoming an invisible scientist. And Tom Cruise stars in a Phillip K. Dick futuristic-cop movie, directed by Steven Spielberg.

  1. Beauty in motion

Mark Morris Dance Group makes its annual pilgrimage to the Bay Area. This time, the world-renowned choreographer revives one of the dance masterpieces of the last half of the 20th century: “L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato,” set to the Handel choral work of the same name. The program runs March 1-5 at UC-Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. For information, call the Zellerbach box office at 510-642-9988.

  1. Tripp wire

The fallout from the Kenneth Starr investigation that so consumed a reluctant nation still continues, but with more gratifying results. Linda Tripp, the false confidante of the naive, indiscreet White House intern Monica Lewinsky, is down to the wire, so to speak, in her wire-tapping prosecution. Some American taxpayers want to see someone go down, what with all those millions spent, and Tripp’s crime is easy to understand and her calculating betrayal much more open to dogmatic judgment. Who doesn’t want to see the Wicked Witch of the East squirm a little? Like all unsympathetic female figures thrust in the media, she will probably end up with a new hairdo out of the deal.

  1. Real millennium

Mathematical purists can take heart that the Western centennial and millennium turnover happens this upcoming New Year’s Eve. Will this mean marketers lying in wait will launch another blitzkrieg of hype? Or is this perhaps deliberate timing on the part of some advertising CEO who wanted to make sure he or she had the night off when the true moment came? In either case, if New Year’s Eve 2000 wasn’t all that you had hoped it would be, you have a year to plan for a far better, saner one that’s free from irksome Y2K entanglements.