Much larger clubhouse awaits the Orioles

June 16, 1991|By Mark Hyman

At the moment, it may look like Baltimore's largest unfinished basement. But come back in April 1992, when the lighting is better and that crumpled foam cup isn't leaking on your shoe.

You'll like it here in the soon-to-be clubhouse of the Baltimore Orioles. So will Orioles players, at least those who do not mind being surrounded by all of life's creature comforts. Wait, isn't that Cal Ripken stepping out of the sauna?

At Memorial Stadium, the Orioles have a clubhouse that is carpeted, has orange chairs and is large enough for players to change their clothes without elbowing the millionaire at the next locker. It is adequate. But it does not compare to the mini-Buckingham Palace that will be part of the new downtown ballpark.

At Camden Yards, the Orioles clubhouse will be 4,000 square zTC feet, about three times bigger than their present dressing room. Many more players will be able to get clean at once -- the Camden Yards bath will have 16 shower nozzles to only six at the old place. There's even good news in the urinal department -- new clubhouse 6, old clubhouse 5.

Maybe you are wondering how the stadium planners decided these things.

According to Janet Marie Smith, an Orioles vice president, they talked to the Orioles manager and coaches, who personally do a lot of the showering, shaving and um, well, shaving. The expert panel explained, for example, that the toilet situation at Memorial Stadium is OK (so, the new and old stadium clubhouses each have five). They pushed for adding a storage bin for dry towels and a room outside the showers for drying off. The ideas were used at the new stadium.

The master plan was to create a clubhouse that is relaxing and functional, Smith said.

"There's plenty of room in center of clubhouse for each player to have a nice good chair to sit in, to open their mail, to relax or to watch TV. This is their work place. We've often used that in commenting on the importance of the design.

Beyond the clubhouse itself, Camden Yards is luxury city. In a video/viewing room, Orioles players will be able to study their swings or curveballs. In a practice tunnel (behind the home-team dugout), they'll have a chance to put the knowledge to work. Other conveniences for players and loved ones include a family waiting area, a VIP lounge and a room featuring a dentist's chair. Care for a crumb cake between innings? Try the players' kitchen, equipped with refrigerator, microwave and sink.

The clubhouse should be completed by Christmas. While that work continues, excavation of the playing field is nearing an end. About 55,000 cubic feet of dirt had to be carted off to sink the playing field 13 to 15 feet below the street.

Next week, workers begin installing the pipes that run underneath the quick-draining Prescription Athletic Turf. By Oct. the PAT work should be completed and the field should be covered by three acres of sod, which is growing on an Eastern Shore farm.

The 18- to 20-foot warning track that will ring the field will be made of polyurethane, a substance unknown to Babe Ruth. Safety is the reason for a synthetic rather than an all-natural, gravel warning track.

"We wanted a material that would serve the purpose of warning a player he is going to the wall, but wouldn't endanger him if he fell," Smith said.

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