Sharp-eyed fans will notice a few changes, such as the red, white and blue NFL logo at midfield where the blue and white Colts horseshoe emblem once was. There are some spots where the paint is bare, and the seats have faded.
But the end zone still scrapes perilously against the baseball dugouts, and the stands are set up in the familiar, gridiron oval. All in all, fans with long memories will find Memorial Stadium remarkably similar to how it appeared in those fall afternoons when football infected Baltimore like a fever.
The 38-year-old structure has undergone a face lift for tomorrow's preseason match between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints. It will be the first professional football game played at the stadium since 1983, and, unless the city can lure a new team here, it may be the last.
More than 59,000 seats have been sold, the largest crowd to attend an event at the stadium since the last season the Colts played here, 1983. It might be the last game ever held at the stadium.
If Baltimore doesn't win a team in this fall's scheduled expansion of the NFL, the city wants to tear the structure down. A new Baltimore team, however, will play at the stadium until a new downtown facility is built.
The backers of Baltimore's NFL effort want to make a good impression on visiting NFL officials so they have carpeted the owners boxes in the colors of the two teams and otherwise polished the facility.
"The field looks good, but I'd like to see it after eight games when it was torn up," said Mike Moore, a 36-year-old carpenter who was hired to help refurbish the owners boxes. "It holds a lot of good memories."
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, landlord of the city-owned stadium, stopped by yesterday and said "It looks great."
Schmoke quarterbacked City College High in two games against Poly at the stadium and held season tickets to Colts games, beginning with student rate seats that sold for $14 a season.
"The thing that's going to be interesting to me is how the Colt band will be received when they play the Colts fight song. There is a whole younger generation that doesn't know what they are playing," he said.
The stadium last hosted a professional sporting event on Oct. 6, the final Orioles game there. In November it was the site of some high school football games.
The stadium refurbishment was similar in many respects to what was done at the start of the baseball season, said Calvin Buikema, the city's superintendent of parks.
Thousands of light bulbs have been changed, the water checked for purity. Buikema had about 100 workers flush as many toilets as possible at the same time to test the sewage system.
"We were trying to simulate a halftime," he said.
Mike Huettner, operations manager for Overlea Concessions, which is running the concessions for the game, said the food service areas of the stadium were in "deplorable" condition when he arrived. A cleaning crew spent a week steam-cleaning.
On game day, 34 of the stadium's 37 concession stands will be open. There will be 20 additional beer stands for a total of 155 beer taps.
Gary Handleman, vice president of facilities for Centre Management, the company hired to manage the game, said preparations for the game began months ago and involved hundreds of workers.
The entire game effort, including game-day staffing, ticket sales, promotion, repairs and other things, will cost about $500,000. But depending on concession sales and other variables, the state's football effort could see a profit of about $400,000.
The Maryland Stadium Authority, host of the game, will pay each team $400,000.
Revenues from ticket sales, parking and the state's share of concessions is expected to add up to $1.7 million, compared with total costs of $1.3 million.
The last game
It was a nondescript victory: The Colts beat the Houston Oilers, 20-10, to end a five-game losing streak and finish the season 7-9. But most of the 20,418 fans at Memorial Stadium on Dec. 18, 1983, probably don't have vivid recollections of Kim Anderson scoring on a 71-yard interception return or Raul Allegre kicking two field goals.
No, the last NFL game in Baltimore is remembered for the crowd's message to owner Bob Irsay. There were banners reacting to the owner's reluctance to re-sign running back Curtis Dickey: "Trade Irsay, Keep Dickey." And there was the chant, the same obscene chant Colts fans had serenaded John Elway with three months earlier: "Irsay s ."