New stadium: Name game getting lame


August 25, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

OK, name the stadium, already. Pick one out of a hat if you have to. Do something.

This is not that hard.

Comedy is hard. Naming a stadium is easy.

Camden Yards, OK?

Orioles Park, OK?

Orioles Park at Camden Yards?

What's the problem? How long can this take? As somebody told me the other day, whatever you name it, people are just going to call it the new stadium.

Name it New Stadium, then.

Do something.

For a while, all the back and forthing was cute. Now, it's dumb. And maybe petty, too. There was a story in The Washington Post the other day suggesting that the governor and the Orioles were feuding over the name. The Gov wants Camden Yards, the story said; Eli Jacobs wants Orioles Park. According to the terms of the lease, the Orioles (Jacobs) and the Stadium Authority (appointed by Schaefer) get to decide this thing together.

The governor's people deny there's any problem or that the Gov even has a hardened choice. Eli Jacobs' spokesman said he assumed Mr. Jacobs would have no comment. That's what I assumed, too.

Are these two guys just being willful and stubborn -- qualities each of them shares?

If not, what's the holdup?

What's the commercial say? Just do it.

Herb Belgrad, Stadium Authority chairman, is more than ready. He's got a sign he wants to put up in front of the stadium waiting for a name. And then there are all those suggestion-filled cards and letters he keeps getting.

"It has certainly been delayed beyond the point that it has to be delayed," Belgrad said. "I'm not criticizing anyone. I know we have two people with very busy schedules, and they've had a hard time getting together on this. But I think the public is fed up with it."

I'd say fed up to here (for those of you following along at home, here is just below my eyeballs).

But if there's an impasse, I have a suggestion: Let the Gov name the stadium. I mean, if I'm the Orioles, I'm not arguing with William Donald Schaefer, I'm thanking the guy. I'm saying: "Gov, are these seats comfy? Can I get you a hot dog and beer? Can I write a nasty letter for you? You name it."

Come on. Without Schaefer, there would be no stadium to name. He's the guy who pushed the bill to finance this stadium -- and one for a football team, too -- through the legislature over a loud chorus of complaints. This was his baby. You can say that he caved in to Edward Bennett Williams, the former Orioles owner, and you'd be right. But he did it.

And here's what Jacobs gets out of the deal. He's got a team that's going to draw over 3 million people there next season and maybe for a lot of seasons thereafter. He's got sky boxes. He's got D.C. virtually down the street. He's got people talking people movers. He's got light rail. Heck, Jacobs has everything but a guest bedroom at the governor's mansion. What's he got to argue about?

Jacobs has said the team is for sale. According to what I hear, the sale figure is, well, incredible would be a starting point. He bought the team for $70 million and is now apparently talking about a sale figure approaching $200 million. Say it's only $140 million. Say it's only $110 million. Whatever the number, most of the profit, should the team be sold, would come from the new stadium given to the Orioles by the good citizens of Maryland.

Apparently, the Gov is telling people that Jacobs is upset because he thinks the Gov leaked the story to the Post in order to gain some advantage in the name game. Is this silly? Does this matter?

Look, we've got this beautiful stadium coming, and the best thing about it is its wonderfully idiosyncratic nature, complete with the so-ugly-it's-camp warehouse looming over the stadium like an old friend. And you have to love that the stadium works so well with the area around it. This is a ballpark in and of a place. It evokes Fenway Park. Or Wrigley Field. They don't call it Red Sox Park, which would be so prosaic, or something cute like Cubs Cubicle. Camden Yards fits the stadium. It makes a statement about the stadium. It's got something -- at the risk of getting carried away -- almost poetic about it.

But, look, we're all tired of the argument that has been going on for way too long. Let Schaefer and Jacobs sit down, once for and all, and just work it out. I'd think one working lunch -- hey, I'll buy -- would just about do it.

Belgrad has the best take on the subject.

"By this time, no matter what you name the stadium, 75 percent of the people will be dissatisfied," he was saying the other day. "But by April 6 [Opening Day], all will be forgotten, and everyone's going to love the place."

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