Ballpark's official debut is big-league success, with just a few errors

April 07, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Sure, there were glitches.

Some of the oversized souvenir game tickets were used -- and apparently used again.

An escalator behind the left-field grandstand ground to a halt, inconveniencing fans for all of 10 minutes.

And this just in from the ballpark loading dock: A shipment of 150 new trash barrels never made it off the truck. The delivery alarmed Secret Service agents, who make most of the decisions when President Bush is in the neighborhood.

But put aside those incidents, and a few others of minor proportions, and yesterday's grand opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards fulfilled the hopes of the ballpark planners.

"I don't want to sound as if we've reached perfection, but I can't imagine anything that could have turned out more beautifully," said Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad.

On its first day as an official American League ballpark, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was a winner. Players swooned. Cash registers jingled. Maybe a few fans in the Opening Day crowd of 44,568 thought nostalgic thoughts about Memorial Stadium.

Then again, maybe not.

The day did not go perfectly, however. It seemed to go least perfectly for fans who hoped to buy some memento of the historic first game.

Lines at the ballpark's novelty stands were remarkable, twisting and looping throughout the supposedly clog-free main concourse. Demand for game programs was most intense. But fans stood patiently in line for several innings to snare other Opening Day items, from hats to buttons to T-shirts.

Ray Moran, novelty manager ARA Services, which sells the baseball souvenirs, attributed the lines to one thing only: A buying frenzy.

"This ballpark is like a shrine, for gosh sakes. People were walking around in awe the first day," he said.

ARA officials declined to be specific about their sales. But Joe Costa, ARA vice president, said sales of novelties and food items at the new park is about double what the company took in at Memorial Stadium.

The novelty cashiers are ringing up sales as fast as they can, Moran said.

"My people can rock 'n' roll with the best of them. It's just incredible demand," Moran said, explaining the Opening Day lines.

Away from the souvenir stands, there were fewer operational headaches. One that occupied the Orioles for a while concerned the souvenir tickets distributed for the opening game. To allow fans to preserve their tickets intact, the team instructed gate attendants to inspect, but not rip them.

Some resourceful fans took that as an invitation to use the ticket more than once. After entering the ballpark, the fans passed their special tickets to the stadium's iron gates to be used again. The problem should not recur: Starting tomorrow, regular tickets will be torn at the gate.

"We were expecting something like that would happen. As soon as it did, we quickly took care of it," said Orioles spokesman Rick Vaughn, who estimated that only a few fans entered the park with tickets used more than once.

President Bush showed up before the first pitch and stayed almost to the last, and his visit caused a few adjustments throughout the ball park. On orders from the Secret Service, deliveries of some items were delayed. When a truck full of trash bins arrived, it was turned back.

The Maryland Stadium Authority had ordered the metal trash-can liners because the first shipment did not snugly fit trash lids. No big deal: They'll wait another day, said stadium authority executive director Bruce Hoffman.

"We still don't have the right pieces for our trash cans, but we'll have it fixed tomorrow," Hoffman said.

Before the season is over, the stadium authority apparently will be doing some intensive research in the area of trash-can dos and don'ts.

Sherman Kerbel, the authority's director of facilities management, said one area to be explored is where to put the cans.

Walking through the concourse yesterday, Kerbel said, "I noticed one trash can completely overloaded and another, 20 feet away, completely empty."

That won't last.

It's a learning experience," he said. "We are going to get smarter."

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