New ballpark casts a giant shadow Winners, losers inside and outside city's new stadium.

March 18, 1991|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff

It's Opening Day 1992 at the Orioles' new stadium at Camden Yards downtown.

Melvin Patterson sings along as the jingling cash register at his Ridgely's Delight bar -- Strike Three Lounge -- belts out: "We're in the money. . . ."

But a few blocks away in Washington Village, Robert Stolte grimaces as fans brawl over a parking space outside his home.

Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Museum, one block from the stadium, beams as he estimates that 100,000 people will tour the museum this year; 35,000 came through in 1990, when the Orioles played on 33rd Street.

But, over in Barre Circle, where fans hover like hawks for a place to park, Deborah Cornish peers out her window and squeezes the baseball bat in her hands. She wonders whether she'll have to smash a few cars' windshields to get across the point that here on Scott Street, fella, the parking spaces are for residents.

Fact or fiction? Time will tell. Suffice it to say that now in 1991, as the Camden Yards stadium rapidly takes shape, people in the neighborhood who'll make money from it look gleefully toward its scheduled opening in April 1992.

But, for the thousands of people who live in the neighborhoods around the stadium, the prospect of sharing their skyline with the giant structure is unsettling -- not to mention humbling.

"It's right there, out my back door," gasps Linda Bosse, who lives in Ridgely's Delight. "It's all stadium."

Bosse, her husband and two children live on Washington Boulevard about as close to the new stadium as anyone. Their homey community of refurbished homes and narrow streets is literally in its shadow.

Her initial reaction to the stadium was typical of her neighbors': Horror.

Residents of Ridgely's Delight, Otterbein, Federal Hill and nearby communities feared that property values would plummet, speculators would prey on the house next door and, once the Orioles moved downtown, the traffic, trash, noise, lights and fight for parking would drive the city dwellers to the suburbs.

But, as the old buildings, rubble and rats of Camden Industrial Park were cleared away, and as a smart-looking new stadium began rising in their place, Bosse started thinking this might not be so bad after all. And that was pretty typical, too.

You can still find residents near the stadium who blow up at the mention of it, and you hear about the few families who moved because of it. But, by and large, people have begun accepting their new neighbor.

Property values have risen, not fallen. People who moved out are replaced by people moving in solely because of the stadium.

George Robbins, a Realtor as well as president of the Otterbein Community Association, even uses the stadium in advertisements for houses. He and others say it will focus attention on the area so that unkempt lots, rundown houses and other neighborhood problems will be addressed quickly by the city.

Then again, some doubt the city's ability to move quickly.

"It takes them forever to do anything," says Cornish, president of the Barre Circle Community Association.

She seems to speak for all the residents when she says the one problem the city must address promptly is parking.

"Parking is the thing that inspires terror in the hearts of us residential-taxpayer types," she says. "Are we going to have to stand at our front door with bats and smash windows if they try to park in front of our house?"

Herman Williams Jr., the city's commissioner of transportation, says bats won't be necessary. He says that several committees are working on the problem, and that solutions will be in place well before Opening Day 1992.

"One thing the home owners can be assured of," Williams says, "is that we'll make every effort to make sure their quality of life is not changed one bit."

A bill has been introduced in the City Council that would allow Williams to regulate residential parking within 1 1/2 miles of the new stadium.

Residential parking means that, except for short periods that vary from place to place, only residents and their visitors can park legally on the street. Residents are issued decals for their cars and permits for their visitors' cars.

Some neighborhoods around the stadium have residential parking, and some don't. The ones that do, such as Ridgely's Delight, Otterbein and Federal Hill, want tighter guidelines and strict enforcement.

The ones that don't, such as Washington Village, Pigtown and South Baltimore, want it, and then they, too, want tight guidelines and strict enforcement.

"Permit parking would at least give us a chance," says Lowell Thompson, minister of Saints Stephen and James Lutheran Church at Hamburg and Hanover streets.

He is co-chairman of the South Baltimore Stadium Traffic and Parking Committee. He says parking is difficult already -- even without a stadium that will seat 48,600 people.

Where are these people going to park? For starters, there will be a parking lot on the stadium grounds for about 5,000 cars.

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