There appears to be a new wrinkle with each assessment of the baseball stadium under construction at Camden Yards.
The latest involves a realignment of Russell Street, which may allay fears of that major artery becoming a target for foul balls. The park is being designed to fit into the neighborhood, but hopefully not as a traffic hazard.
As the new facility rises, it has become obvious that the third base side and Russell Street are cozy companions. The height of the structure does not appear to be sufficient to keep all baseballs within the building, but two generally unknown variables should have an effect.
"Russell Street is going to change," said Janet Marie Smith, the Orioles' vice president of development and planning. Prior to a slide-show presentation to the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects last night, Smith indicated that the alteration as well as the stadium's design should make the street and pedestrian walkways safe from errant baseballs.
"The field will be 16 feet below ground level," Smith pointed out, "and the building rises 104 feet [above ground level]."
That means a foul ball would have to reach a height of 120 feet before leaving the premises. By comparison, Memorial Stadium is 140 feet above ground level and Tiger Stadium in Detroit is 110.
In her presentation to AIA, Smith noted that the proximity of the new stadium to downtown offered the "chance to employ the principles of good urban design." In the suburbs, that concept "would have been meaningless," she said.
Smith noted that ballparks built in the early part of the century, before lights were installed, "could have been city halls or libraries," because they were designed to fit their surroundings. The stadium now under construction will have a similar appearance, with very little of the innards visible from the outside.
Using modern techniques, the new stadium will attempt to convey the "homey" atmosphere of the old parks, even with its in-house advertising. "We'd like to use the theme, without getting too cute about it," said Smith.
The only similarity between the old and the new will be the rightfield foul pole. "We're taking that with us as a memento of Memorial Stadium, which has served us so well for 35 years," said Smith. Evidently somebody forgot how well the leftfield foul pole served the Orioles in 1989.
There will be more restroom facilities, with better distribution, more leg and hip room in the stadium seats and less steps in the new facility. "Half the people will go down to their seats and half will go up, which should help the flow," said Smith.
Surprisingly, there also will be more on-site parking -- 5,000 spaces as opposed to the current 3,500. Even with the addition of a football stadium, pending the arrival of an NFL team, parking will be preserved with on-site garages. In addition, Smith pointed out that there will be 22,000 parking spaces within three-quarters of a mile -- in addition to a light-rail station on the premises.
* SEE FOR YOURSELF: The first public tours of the new stadium will be held in conjunction with the Orioles' annual Winter Carnival, which will be held from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Omni Hotel. Tours will run every hour from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
* ON DOTTED LINE: Rookie pitchers Mike Linskey and David Martinez have signed contracts, bringing to 11 the number of Orioles who have agreed to terms for 1991.