Plan. Plan. Plan. Going to the ballpark will never be the same again.
The way fans used to get to Memorial Stadium -- those secret paths through the back streets of Waverly and Govans -- won't work driving to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Smart fans will not wait until they reach Pratt or Russell streets before trying to figure out where to park. That would mean traffic gridlock and a missed inning or two -- not just on Opening Day.
Take the advice of the state and city officials who have been thinking about getting fans to and from the new stadium for years: plan, plan, plan ahead.
The downtown location of the new ballpark has advantages and disadvantages as far as getting there is concerned. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages as long as fans think through the best way for them to arrive at the ballpark and depart for home. Being downtown means competing at times with a heavy traffic flow. But it offers many choices that did not exist in the residential area around Memorial Stadium.
For motorists, there will be upwards of 20,000 parking spaces in downtown garages, not one of them bumper to bumper. Virtually all of them are north or east of the ballpark. Shuttle buses will take fans from many of these garages right to the stadium's front door. Half of the 5,000 parking spaces on the lots off Russell Street and I-395 are allocated to permit holders. All but the earliest arrivals will probably do better elsewhere.
What's really new about getting to the ballpark, however, is the variety of mass-transit options that fans can select. The new light-rail system, the MARC commuter trains from Washington and points north and special shuttle buses from park-and-ride lots will drop their passengers almost at the stadium gate. Metro has two stops within a half-dozen blocks of the ballpark. A dozen park-and-ride lots outside the city offer 4,000 parking spaces and express bus service.
Although they have their fingers crossed about overload on the light-rail line, transit officials are hoping many fans will abandon their cars far from the ballpark and leave the driving to them. Or head downtown early, have dinner or a drink and walk to the stadium. Most important, fans should give a few moments' thought to their travel plans well before they head for the game. Driving as close as possible to the ballpark probably won't be the fastest way there -- or home.