Next year, it's a whole new ballgame

April 04, 1991|By Mark Hyman

Welcome. And thanks for joining us here at the new ballpark at Camden Yards that doesn't have a name yet. You're a year early, of course. But let's not get bogged down in technicalities.

You've come for a tour of the new ballpark, as it will appear on Opening Day 1992. Fair enough. Before we head for the knish stand, though, let's review a few things. The state is building the ballpark for $105.4 million. The only tenant will be the Orioles, who signed a 15-year lease.

As you noticed, this place isn't your standard concrete pastry like they built -- and now regret -- in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The plan here was to design a traditional ballpark -- that would blend with the old neighborhoods nearby -- Otterbein, Ridgely's Delight and the rest -- but otherwise would offer space-age conveniences. We're still in the space age, right?

A lot of thinking has gone into the planning. This concourse we're standing in right now is an example. It's wider than the walkways at Memorial Stadium and most other ballparks. That ** should make moving around a lot easier. No more being caught '' in a jam because the line for french fries or to use the ladies' room is out of control.

Maybe we should go see the field, since we're here for baseball. There are about 47,000 seats, which some people think is stupid since Memorial Stadium has about 54,000. They might be right. Before they picked the lower number, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority looked at records of Orioles attendance over the past decade or so. They found that only a handful of games draw more than 47,000, so, they thought, why spend the extra money?

Now that we're in the stands, you'll notice a lot of interesting stuff. There are no posts here, and no seats with obstructed views. On average, the seats will be two inches wider than at Memorial Stadium, and leg room is improved. The upper deck has a gentler slope than Memorial Stadium's upper deck.

If money is no object, this is the ballpark of your dreams.

Near where the reporters sit is a row of 72 luxury boxes. Some will have rent of $95,000 a year, for which you get a TV, telephones, a bathroom and up to 14 seats. There's also something the Orioles are calling the "Club Level." There's never been anything like it at a baseball park. To buy a seat in this posh level, you have to pay for a ticket and then pay something else. The Orioles will decide what that something else is, and they're not talking yet.

For Joe Oriole, this place probably boils down to this: A better seat, tastier food, pleasant surroundings and more expensive tickets.

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