Stadium Splendor

March 29, 1992

It is spacious. It is functional. It looks fabulous. It has all the spectator comforts imaginable for baseball fans and a lot of luxury for the affluent on the mahogany-paneled Club Level. But perhaps the grandest tribute we can give to Oriole Park at Camden Yards is that for once government has spent taxpayers' money wisely: On April 6, officials will deliver, on time and at the promised cost, a top-quality, nationally recognized architectural gem that could prove as big a bonanza for Baltimore -- and Maryland -- as the Inner Harbor.

This baseball park blends traditional with modern. At the insistence of Oriole owner Eli S. Jacobs, it has the feel of venerable stadiums of the past: Wrigley, Fenway, Ebbetts Field. Fans and players will be coddled with conveniences. Still, the main attraction -- baseball -- holds center stage in a surrounding that is ideal for savoring the game.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is far more, though, than simply a playing field. As designed by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Orioles, it will be a focal point of interest during the spring, summer and fall.

The B&O warehouse, a marvelously long, eight-story 19th century building combines both the old and the new: Its 94-year history and brick facade recalls the era of railroading history in Baltimore, but its refurbished interior mix of office space, baseball-related shops and eateries and the daytime extension of Eutaw Street as a pedestrian walkway enlarges the boundaries of downtown.

The magnificently restored Camden Station, meanwhile, acts as a centerpiece for Baltimore's new emphasis on mass transit. It could be that baseball fans will herald an era of popularity for the Metro, trolleys, commuter rail and bus lines that all feed into the Camden Yards area, some within 50 feet of the ball park gates.

Ridgely's Delight and Pigtown never looked better than they do from the upper deck concourse. Baltimore's high-rise offices, ancient and spanking-new, frame the stadium's outfield for the fans. The Bromo-Seltzer Tower, brightly illuminated at night, stands watch over everything, lending an architectural kitsch to the area unmatched at any sports venue in America.

We suspect that this endeavor will quickly silence skeptics. As an economic development effort, this massive project could spur rapid growth west of the Inner Harbor. As a revenue-producer for the city and state, the new stadium could far exceed expectations. And as a symbol of a resurgent Baltimore and a resilient Maryland, Oriole Park at Camden Yards sends a message to the entire country that this is, indeed, a state willing to create for its citizens facilities that are second to none.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer should take great pride in this accomplishment, for he is its principal creator and promoter. At Camden Yards, he managed to "do it now" and to do it right.

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