Orioles grove one with new picnic spot

December 29, 1991|By Mark Hyman

Searching for the perfect picnic ground, but reluctant to go all the way to Yosemite National Park for the afternoon?

Why not try Baltimore's newest outdoor eatery, where the after-supper entertainment might include a Sam Horn home run?

That's right. It's the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the future home of the Orioles and of countless bottles of Worcestershire sauce.

Like Memorial Stadium, the new ballpark will have a picnic area where fans can meet friends and squirt condiments before games. But the new picnic grove will be different and, in most ways, far superior to that area at Memorial Stadium.

For one, it actually will look like a place to have a picnic. At Memorial Stadium, picnickers were shunted off beyond the center-field fence, in an area that had a patch of grass, a chain-link fence and the disadvantage of being directly below the stadium's central loudspeaker.

At the new ballpark, fans dining in the outfield seemingly will have more of everything, with the possible exception of permanent hearing loss.

The picnic area, a spacious 30,000 square feet, will be beyond the wall in left-center. It will be dotted with two dozen to three dozen of the largest trees that could be trucked to the site. It

also will have two things that are helpful in a picnic area, but that were lacking at Memorial Stadium: a fully equipped kitchen -- where the stadium caterers, ARA-Martin's, will be able to prepare the full range of ballpark eats -- and restrooms.

There will be other changes. The new picnic area will have lighting and tents, for evening and foul-weather dining. It also will be on three separate levels, each connected by stairs and ramps, so that the Orioles can carve up the space to suit the size of that night's groups.

According to Roy Sommerhof, Orioles director of stadium services, a capacity crowd at the new picnic area will be about 1,500, compared with 1,000 at the old stadium. The Orioles will offer picnic privileges to groups with a minimum of 250 ticket buyers, Sommerhof said.

This may be the first picnic area where you couldn't get mud on your sneakers if you tried. The ground will be covered with a finely crushed stone that will drain quickly in case of drizzle or even flash flood. The ballpark planners considered grass, for about a second. "With the amount of traffic we expect there, you couldn't keep it alive," said project manager Tom Rogers.

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