The New York Times editorial page viewed our...


April 10, 1992

HERE'S HOW the New York Times editorial page viewed our latest downtown marvel:

Taking a Swing for the Cities

The Baltimore Orioles

Belong to Baltimore

"Probably no opening day baseball game has been covered by '' so many specialists as Monday's contest between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians.

"There were architecture critics to celebrate the debut of Baltimore's magnificent new/old stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There were political analysts to schmooze with Washington bigwigs and watch President Bush throw out the first ball, an ill-chosen curve that bounced in front of the plate.

"And of course there were sportswriters, delighted with a game played crisply in near-perfect weather in just a whisper over two hours.

"Had there been an urbanist in the crowd, the urbanist would have been happy too. The reason is simple: The people who built this stadium built it in the city. They took a chance that others haven't and decided not to relocate to the suburbs. Not only that, they built a brand new commuter railroad to bring suburbanites into the city.

"The result is a stadium that not only opens to the city but invites it in. Unlike Shea Stadium, it is surrounded by city streets, not freeways. Restaurants are springing up nearby and so is moderate-income housing.

"The owner, Eli S. Jacobs, was weaned on baseball at Fenway Park, an old-fashioned field. When it became clear that Baltimore needed a new stadium, he vetoed dysfunctional doughnuts, like Busch Stadium in St. Louis, that are built for football and baseball but serve neither. Nor did he want a dome. What he and Baltimore wanted and got was a park with grass, sky and a cityscape.

"Therein lies a message for municipal leaders elsewhere. Some have already heard it. Buffalo's minor-league Pilot Field is a civic oasis, energizing the city's downtown. Ditto Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. And Cleveland recently broke ground for a $362 million inner-city sports complex.

"But some still don't get it. Few cities have more burned-out vacant space than Detroit. Few cities are more urgently in need of downtown renewal and a common meeting ground for all races. Yet the owners of the Detroit Tigers seem determined to follow the same course pursued by basketball's Detroit Pistons and football's Detroit Lions, both of which moved to antiseptic arenas in lily-white suburbs.

"If team location were simply an owner's choice to make, it would be hard to argue against it. Yet this is usually a public issue involving taxpayers' money. The voters of Maryland coughed up $200 million through lotteries and bond issues. The voters of Michigan will do the same. As underwriters, they have a choice. Baltimore suggests the right one. ROBERT B. SEMPLE Jr."

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