The best seats not in the house

April 06, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

From the fifth floor of the cast-iron building at Pratt and Howard streets, you'll be able to see a runner rounding third in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but you'll have to wait for the roar of the crowd to know if he scores. From the roof, you'll be able to see him get home, but you won't know who he is, even with a score card.

This 19th century structure, renovated a couple of years ago and now known as the Marsh & McLennan Building, is one of several buildings in straightaway center field with views of the field at Oriole Park, or at least part of it.

Among the other elite edifices are, of course, the Camden Warehouse, but also the Holiday Inn, the Marriott Hotel, the Bromo Seltzer tower, Mercantile Bank and Trust tower and the 24-story stair-step building known only by its address, 250 W. Pratt St.

From Eutaw Street, south of Lombard, there are also places you can see into the ballpark, and there are spots along the Camden Street fence, behind center field -- and the picnic area -- where you can see the field and read the players' numbers.

But it is the upper decks of hotels and office buildings, where height seems to eclipse city blocks, that afford the best views for those who are outside looking in.

"We're not sure what we can hear, but we have a beautiful view," says Dan Stone, developer of the Marsh & McLennan building at 300 W. Pratt St. "We can see people rounding third, but we don't know if they score or not."

There's no trouble seeing home plate from the upper echelons of the 250 building, across Howard from Marsh & McLennan. Offices in the southwest corner, such as the 19th floor library at the law firm of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, offer stunning looks at Baltimore's newest diamond. From there only first base isn't visible.

The stadium has actually changed the focus of the firm. When it moved there in 1987, facing the Inner Harbor was the place to be, says Geoffrey Mitchell, the firm's chairman. Now the other end of the building has its own fringe benefits.

It's the round table in the library corner that promises to be the hot spot today rather than the terrace facing the harbor. The library will offer a bird's-eye view of the Birds when the firm entertains at least 200 clients and friends at its Opening Day celebration.

From the Holiday Inn, the view is wider, with more of first base in sight, but slightly more removed. The hotel's 12th floor, just below its once-revolving restaurant, is home to the Bird's Nest Cafe, where cocktails and light fare will be served with the scenery.

"It's going to be fun," says Jack Maikranz, who's been planning the cafe since January when he became the hotel's manager. "I've got tickets for Opening Day, but I'm going to be here. I'm going to give those away."

Guest rooms on the hotel's 9th, 10th and 11 floors -- some with balconies -- share the same view.

The Bromo Seltzer tower, owned by the city and officially named the Maryland Arts Tower, overlooks the first-base side of the playing field. The view stops somewhere between second and third.The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Arts and Culture has offices on the lower floors of the tower, but the upper stories are vacant, closed and slightly disheveled.

The best views are from the 15th floor, where windows open onto a ledge, just below the clock. Local television stations have been using that perch for some of their coverage.

Several blocks north and east, but still with a commanding view of the stadium, is the Mercantile Bank and Trust at 2 Hopkins Plaza. From its roof, more than 300 feet above stadium level, the playing field, except first base, is easily visible.

And this building provides something old along with the new -- a view of Memorial Stadium, to the northeast, just about a 180-degree turn from Oriole Park.

As charming as these views may be, none is like sitting behind home plate or even out in left field at the new stadium. So, if you are heading for one of these overlooks, and care about the game as well as the scenery, here's a bit of advice from Yvonne Harris, the librarian at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes: " 'BYOB.' Binoculars, that is."

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