The Baltimore Orioles expect to move out of Memorial Stadium after the 1991 season, but that may not be the end of baseball at the old ballpark on 33rd Street.
Columbia businessman Peter Kirk confirmed yesterday that the same investors who own the Class A Frederick Keys and Class AA Hagerstown Suns are seeking a Class AAA franchise for Maryland that they hope to locate permanently in the Annapolis-Bowie area.
But since it would take at least a year after awarding of the franchise to complete construction of a 10,000-seat stadium, the proposed team would have to play at least one season somewhere else. That place, Kirk said, could be 53,371-seat Memorial Stadium.
"It meets a couple of requirements -- it's nice, available and well-suited for baseball," Kirk said of the Orioles' home since 1954. "It also would allow everyone in the area to become familiar with a Triple-A team on a temporary basis."
Kirk said he had discussed the possibility of using Memorial Stadium for a short time (probably in 1992 and/or 1993) with Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and Orioles player personnel director Doug Melvin, and that neither was opposed.
Kirk, president of KMS Group, a real-estate development firm, heads Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership, which is among 18 groups that formally have applied for Class AAA franchises to be created as part of Major League Baseball's expansion plans in 1993. At least two Class AAA teams will be added; the number could be four if major-league teams are awarded to Buffalo, N.Y., and Denver, cities that have minor-league teams now.
Kirk's group completed the first step of the expansion process recently by submitting a $5,000 non-refundable deposit and returning a 10-page questionnaire to the Triple-A Alliance expansion committee. On Nov. 14, Kirk said, representatives of the Maryland group are scheduled to be in Chicago to make a presentation to the expansion committee, which is expected to award teams next summer.
Unlike teams in Hagerstown and Frederick, which are affiliated with the Orioles, the proposed Class AAA franchise would have ties to a National League expansion team. The Orioles' Class AAA team is in Rochester, N.Y., and Melvin said the team had "no plans of leaving there at this time."
The future of Memorial Stadium remains unclear. When the Orioles leave, the stadium will be losing its sole regular tenant, and several neighborhood groups favor tearing it down. However, the Maryland Stadium Authority has recommended that the stadium not be razed for several years so that a National Football League expansion franchise could play there, if Baltimore is awarded one, until a new football stadium is built.