Park shows signs of readiness

November 21, 1991|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Evening Sun Staff

The sun roof is on. The seats are bolted in. Even the infield grass has taken root. And now, five months before Opening Day, the planners of Oriole Park at Camden Yards are getting down to really serious business.

They have picked out a sign.

This is not any sign. It is a custom-designed panel that will carry the ballpark's name and be displayed above the main entrance behind home plate.

Plans for the ballpark sign, an ornate scoreboard clock and other decorative items are included in a $230,704 signature graphics contract that the Maryland Stadium Authority is expected to approve today.

The design of the main sign conjures up thoughts of the Orioles and evokes a memory of their former home park at Memorial Stadium, but it also is a reminder of the negotiation between Orioles principal owner Eli S. Jacobs and Gov. William Donald Schaefer that ended with the ballpark being named twice.

Jacobs' choice, Oriole Park, will be displayed more prominently. The ballpark's first name will spelled out in 6-foot-high block letters outlined in orange neon. The whole thing will be supported by a steel truss above the home-plate entrance.

Directly below, pinned to the stadium's precast shell, will be 3 1/2 -foot-high, stainless-steel letters spelling out Camden Yards, the name favored by Schaefer. This part of the sign should have a familiar look to Orioles fans born before 1992. The stylized typeface will be similar to letters that hang above the main entrance of Memorial Stadium.

Do not look for "at." The ballpark planners discussed where to put it, and finally decided nowhere was best. "To me, it just doesn't fit there," Maryland Stadium Authority executive director Bruce Hoffman said. "It's understood where Oriole Park is."

The Orioles and the stadium authority chose the sign, which will cost $37,060, from several designed by David A. Ashton, a Baltimore graphic designer. Janet Marie Smith, Orioles vice president for planning and development, said it satisfied the Orioles' preference for a simple design, but one that fans will notice.

"We didn't want something that would overpower the architecture," Smith said, "or something so diminutive that you needed a magnifying glass to find it."

If the stadium sign is intended to turn heads, then a version that ended up on the design-room floor might have dislocated necks. Ashton had proposed spelling out Oriole Park in 12-foot letters that would have attached to the ballpark's metal sunroof and been visible for miles -- "the Domino Sugar sign of the late 20th century," Ashton said.

Orioles and stadium authority officials considered the idea, but rejected it, citing, among other things, the higher cost of the letters and concerns about where they might land on a windy day. Some also had concerns about the sign's stealing attention from the ballpark itself.

"The name should be assimilated into the structure itself," said stadium authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad. "It shouldn't stand out in glaring spotlights."

The main sign is one of several extra touches planned for Oriole Park. Others designed by Ashton and included in the signature graphics contract include:

* An old-fashioned scoreboard clock. It will not be identical to the ancient timepiece in the nearby Bromo Seltzer Tower, but it will be close.

The clock, which will cost the stadium authority $84,760, will sit on top of the main scoreboard beyond the centerfield fence. On top of the clock will be a familiar touch -- 3-foot letters spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S in orange neon.

* Orioles bird weather vanes. Fans will never be at a loss for the latest information about wind currents. The main scoreboard will include two custom weather vanes, flanking the clock. The birds will be 8 feet high from base to top. They will be flat sheet metal and painted on both sides. When the wind blows, they will turn gently.

* Pennants. The new ballpark will lead the American League in this department. The main scoreboard will have six small flagpoles. The plan is to fly orange pennants marking the Orioles' world championship seasons in 1966, '70 and '83. The remaining three will be blank on Opening Day.

Beside the scoreboard, beyond the rightfield wall, will be a flag court where pennants of the 14 American League teams will be arranged in order of division standings.

* Dugout art. Tentatively, plans call for the roofs of the visiting and home team to be decorated. The inscription on the home-team dugout would read: "Home of the Orioles" while the visitors dugout would say, "Welcome to Oriole Park."

By early February, the main sign should be in place, according to the stadium authority's construction schedule. The clock probably will not be hoisted on top of the scoreboard until the middle of February, about two months before the Orioles' home opener on April 6.

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