Today's opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards combines two of America's favorite diversions: baseball and advertising.
But for the companies that shelled out between $75,000 and $250,000 to have their logos displayed, advertising in the new stadium is more than a game.
"The civics aspect may have been important in the 1980s, but those days have been over for two years," said Marty Conway, the Orioles' vice president of marketing. "These advertising programs have to be packaged with something to ring the cash registers."
Esskay Quality Meat Co., which had two mezzanine signs in Memorial Stadium, decided to increase its advertising presence by purchasing one sign flanking the out-of-town scoreboard and three signs inside the concourse. "It goes in conjunction with having a product in the stadium," said Tony Santoni, an Esskay sales manager. "We're looking to put our name before the public, and our sign will appear on television."
The new ballpark will be the only one in the major leagues with advertising in fair territory. Although the park will have five signs on the outfield walls, as well as signs along the mezzanine, in the concourse and flanking the scoreboards, Mr. Conway said there are fewer advertisers at Oriole Park than there were at Memorial Stadium.
Mr. Conway would not disclose now much revenue the signs generate for the team.
Ad prices vary by location and size, and most also depend on the purchase of an advertising package that included promotional nights and space in programs, season tickets and entertainment suites. Lease agreements range from two to five years.
The smallest signs, those along the mezzanine, are four feet by 12 feet. The largest are 22 feet by 32 feet, on the outfield walls.
Sales of the ads began last fall and the last spaces were sold only a couple of weeks ago. But not all will be in place for today's exhibition game. Some ads are still being made and installed, and they should be put up within two or three days after Monday's season opener.
In keeping with the stadium's old-fashioned feel, Budweiser and Coca-Cola dusted off old logos for their signs flanking the scoreboard. The Sun's clock above the scoreboard evokes an old-time feel, and Legg Mason modified its logo to look more antique.
Advertisements on the outfield wall also are reminiscent of old-time ballparks. "It's kind of back to the future," Mr. Conway said, predicting that other parks will again sell advertising space on the walls.
Crown Central Petroleum is leasing one of the spaces in left field. Its sign, with a drawing of fans standing to reach an imaginary ball as it flies out of the park is inscribed, "Bye-Bye Birdie." The Crown Central logo is in the corner.
High costs make it difficult to justify spending money for signs seen only by fans going to the park, said Paul Pierce, Crown's manager of advertising. Crown chose the left field wall location to capitalize on television exposure.