Downtown hotels are big fans of new ballpark

INNS SPELL RELIEF: S-T-A-D-I-U-M

June 27, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

The new Oriole Park baseball stadium is a hit with downtown hotels.

Although precise figures are not available, hotel managers say the stadium has boosted business, which had been lagging because of the recession and flattening of the convention business.

"It's fun to watch the grown-ups checking into the hotel, and they're like kids they're so excited about the game," said Gary Oster, assistant general manager of the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel.

Bruno Cantineni, resident manager of the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor, said that hotel, at Pratt and Eutaw streets, rarely sold out last summer but is usually filled on weekends this year when the Orioles are in town. "The stadium has had a tremendous impact," he said.

Baseball fans also are stopping by the Marriott's restaurants and lounges, increasing food and beverage sales, he said.

The Holiday Inn at 301 W. Lombard St. has created an outdoor cafe called the Bird's Nest that provides a perch where fans can watch the games on TV. The hotel also is being renovated.

The stadium is exceeding expectations," said Rick Rowe, the Holiday Inn's assistant general manager.

The hotel has benefited from the publicity surrounding the stadium, he said, and television camera crews use the Holiday Inn's roof for a bird's-eye view of the ballpark. The Holiday Inn and some other downtown hotels offer special Orioles packages, providing guests with Orioles memorabilia along with their rooms.

Even hotels farther uptown are seeing some spillover business. "When the Orioles are in town, our call volume increases about 20 percent," said Lee Ann Kish, general manager of the Peabody Court Hotel at 612 Cathedral St.

The hotel managers are unanimous in saying the stadium has helped business, but they say it is too soon to tell how much.

"There's no question that putting 47,000 people in downtown Baltimore has a major impact on the downtown," said Michael S. Whipple, general manager of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel and president of the Baltimore Area Hotel and Motel Association.

But because of the recession and lack of growth in the convention business, the hotels' occupancy rates have not increased substantially from last year, Mr. Whipple and other hotel managers said.

The Sheraton, a block from the stadium, has paid the Orioles for the designation of "official Orioles' headquarters hotel" and has converted its lounge into a sports bar called the Orioles Bar, featuring Orioles memorabilia. Orange and black banners outside the hotel advertise the bar. "There's been lots of traffic through there," Mr. Whipple said.

Mr. Oster at the Stouffer said that later in the summer, when the convention business slows, the hotel should be able to measure the impact of the stadium.

One negative impact the stadium may have had is on the Stouffer's food and beverage sales, which are down slightly from last year's. Mr. Oster said he thinks some local dinner guests are avoiding downtown on game nights out of concern about traffic.

Even so, he said, the hotel is pleased with the new stadium because of the possibility of long-term benefits. "It's shown the national press what a great town Baltimore is," he said.

One hotel hurt by the new stadium is the Cross Keys Inn, which previously housed most of the visiting teams but has lost that business.

The teams used to fill the Cross Keys Inn, at 5100 Falls Rd., more than 30 nights a year, and the hungry and thirsty ballplayers significantly boosted the restaurant and bar sales, said Scott Hermani, the hotel's general manager.

The hotel has tried to make up for the loss by pursuing special groups such as wedding parties, but business is still down, he said.

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