Stadium chores are many, but all say it'll be ready

FINISHING TOUCHES

March 08, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Take a field trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards this week. Look between the towering brick arches, through the tinted windows of the club level and, if you are visually gifted, down the darkened corridors leading to the playing field.

What do you see?

An exciting ballpark, but one that clearly is not finished.

You wouldn't want to be sitting beside the right-field foul line at the new ballpark. At least, not this week. About 4,000 lower deck and bleacher seats have not been bolted into place, including those with an intimate view of the short right field.

It's best not to gulp repeatedly at a water fountain, either. Wait until the ballpark's vast plumbing system has been flushed with chlorine, and the health department has given the all-clear signal.

Tom Rogers, deputy project director for Barton Malow Co., the ballpark construction managers, can recite the details of these unfinished projects and about a thousand others -- from the Orioles clubhouse, where the sauna hasn't been hooked up, to the 72 luxury suites, many of which still are without furniture.

Yet, he's not worried about Opening Day arriving before the work crews have departed. And if he isn't, why should we?

Sitting behind a makeshift desk in his construction office last week, piles of documents neatly stacked at the corners, Rogers vowed the ballpark would be ready for baseball on April 6, the day the Orioles open the 1992 season against the Cleveland Indians. He said that calmly.

With a little luck -- and a string of sunny days -- he said the baseball building might even be ready to host a game by March 23, leaving two weeks for the ballpark crews to shine and fine-tune.

"If the quality could be better, and we have time, we'll make it better," Rogers said.

He had examples.

"Maybe a pipe is in the wrong place, somewhere you'd rather it wasn't. It works, but for aesthetic reasons you'd rather make a change," he said. "If we have time, we'll be doing that type of thing."

Throughout the construction hierarchy, there is confidence that the job will be done on time and, in most instances, with time to spare.

"We'll be done, absolutely, positively for sure," said Bruce Hoffman, Maryland Stadium Authority executive director. "But gosh, there are so many little details at the end."

There are too many to count and not enough time to count them, anyway. Look behind the door of any construction trailer and you almost are certain to find a supervisor busily counting off the jobs to be finished by Opening Day.

Take Eli Eisenberg, technical manager for the Maryland Stadium Authority and, before that, a member of the Orioles staff that operated Diamond Vision at Memorial Stadium.

At the new ballpark, Eisenberg's job is daunting -- to oversee virtually every one of the ballpark's electrical toys, including the Sony Jumbotron, the matrix scoreboards and even the state-of-the-art sound system.

"If it has a wire, I'm involved," Eisenberg said jokingly.

Almost every day until Opening Day seems to bring a potential crisis for Eisenberg. Last week, Daktronics Inc., the scoreboard manufacturer, fired up one of the ballpark's two auxiliary scoreboards -- the one in the left-field corner. The results were promising, if imperfect. Of the 4,096 light bulbs that make up the board, fewer than 1 percent failed to illuminate.

This week, the stakes, and screens, get bigger. Eisenberg expects the first tests of both the message board in the main scoreboard and the Sony Jumbotron. The technicians will be making sure that power is reaching the boards, and then searching for malfunctioning bulbs.

Bad things could happen.

"The worst? That nothing would work," Eisenberg said.

He doesn't expect that.

If all goes well, "we will be attacking small problems," he said.

Who said there is no glamour in the scoreboard industry? In a few days, Eisenberg and a few others will be the first to see images flicker across Jumbotron, an impressive notion until you consider what they will be looking at -- a test pattern.

Paul Zwaska, the Orioles' head groundskeeper, set up shop at the new stadium only nine days ago, moving his staff and his garden tools from Memorial Stadium. The major field work has been completed. But since their arrival, the groundskeepers have been working on a series of relatively small, but vital, assignments.

How small? Last week, Zwaska's crews dug narrow trenches beyond first and third base and extending to the outfield. Into the channels, they slipped a series of 4-by-4 boards, laying them end to end. In this way, they created the ballpark's permanent white foul lines, which stay white because the crew repaints them before every home game, Zwaska said.

The next few weeks will be equally busy, and dirty, for the team's groundskeepers. If the weather cooperates, they probably will be burying base anchors, an important chore considering that this hardware ensures against bases soaring into the outfield.

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