At Camden Yards, left field hasn't cornered market on poor seats

August 29, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Most of the grousing and griping has been about those now infamous seats down the left-field line, the ones that point roughly in the direction of Cape May, N.J.

But scattered throughout the Camden Yards stadium are other seats that some Orioles fans also have rated less than ideal. Among them:

* Terrace box seats. Most of these $11 seats, clumped directly behind field-level boxes, are fine. The problem is with the 13th and final row, which is tucked deep below the overhanging club level. Fans in these seats have clear views of the playing field, but miss high pop-ups at their highest points and cannot see the upper half of the scoreboard in right-center field.

* Bleacher seats. Again, most offer superior views at a bargain price: $4 for adults, $1 for children. But some seats in section 96 might be a difficult sell if fans knew precisely what they'd be seeing, and not seeing.

This section's nearest neighbor is the 25-foot "Tall Wall," which looms high over rows of seats. On balls hit to deep right, the wall often blocks views of the section 96 fans, who generally must wait for the crowd to tell them whether a batted ball is rattling off the out-of-town scoreboard or has fallen snugly into an outfielder's glove. There's usually no chance to review the play on the JumboTron screen either; the pictures are barely visible from the bleachers.

* Wheelchair seating. About 300 of the state-of-the-art wheelchair seats at the ballpark are on the lower level. The locations are convenient, easy to maneuver into and out of and offer great views of the action. Problems arise, however, when fans seated in front stand up for the national anthem or for a better look at an exciting play. Then, wheelchair patrons sitting behind them are blocked.

Stadium architects and others who participated in planning say the imperfect seats aren't mistakes, but the result of design trade-offs that are made during any construction project.

For instance, the final row of terrace boxes were not in the original stadium plan, according to Ben Barnert, an architect for HOK Sports Facilities Group. The seats only were put in when it became clear there would be room to squeeze them in, albeit in locations that are less than ideal.

The result is a mixed bag. On the upside -- an additional 700 to 800 seats for fans, more ticket revenue for the Orioles. On the downside, locations from which ticket buyers can see only 94 percent of the action.

"I'd have to be naive to expect everything would be perfect from every chair. But I think we have a high percentage of good seats at the stadium," Barnert said.

That also goes for handicapped seating, said Harford County state's attorney Joseph Cassilly, who served on a committee that helped to devise a plan for fans seated in those areas.

"I've sat in the [lower deck] seats, and there are problems. But you see the ballgame. Most people don't spend the whole nine innings standing up," he said.

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