Orioles to ban smoking in seated areas

January 08, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

If the air around Camden Yards seems a little fresher next season, the reason may be a set of sweeping, new smoking restrictions the Orioles announced yesterday.

Ending several days of speculation, the team said that smoking no longer will be permitted in the ballpark's 48,041 seats.

The new rules fall short of an outright ban. They permit fans to light up in a number of areas inside the ballpark, but away from seating sections, including upper and lower concourses, the left-field picnic area and Eutaw Street.

"We have not prohibited smoking in the ballpark. We've restricted smoking in the seating bowl so people will not have to sit next to people who are smoking," Orioles President Larry Lucchino said.

Mr. Lucchino cited requests from fans and secondary smoke concerns as reasons for taking the step.

"We recognize there is a health factor involved in this nation and particularly in our state. Whatever small step we as a baseball club can make toward reduction of that nagging heath problem is a positive statement," he said.

The Orioles become the fifth of the 28 major-league teams to impose widespread smoking limits. The others are the Oakland A's, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres.

The rules at Oriole Park will be more friendly to smokers than some of the others. Fans in Detroit, for instance, can smoke in the Tiger Stadium concourses, but only in designated areas.

The new rules were drafted by Orioles management. Under the terms of its 30-year lease, the team has the right to set stadium policy on a range of issues, including smoking and alcohol consumption.

The Orioles also will be charged with enforcing the new rules, which might be no easy task, particularly in the first few weeks and months of the season as fans are getting used to the rules.

Roy A. Sommerhof, Orioles director for stadium operations, said the team will rely on its crew of 180 ushers and other ballpark workers to keep a close watch for fans breaking the rules. In the next few months, those team employees will be trained on how to deal tactfully with smokers who light up in their seats.

"In the beginning, we expect to be dealing with a lot of fans who aren't aware of the policy. We expect to be doing a lot of explaining," said Mr. Sommerhof, who said the team plans to flash the rules on the scoreboard and to print them in the game program.

If the generic warnings don't work, ushers will visit fans at their seats, handing out pocket-size cards imprinted with the smoking rules. Persistent smokers then will receive a second warning. If they still refuse to stop, they will be escorted out of the ballpark, Mr. Sommerhof said.

The announcement of the new policy comes a little late for many Orioles customers. Before the smoking rules were known, the team had sold about 2.5 million tickets for next season. Those sales figures include seats purchased by season-ticket patrons, many of whom were required to pay for their orders last month, and more than 200,000 tickets bought for individual games.

"We wanted to get it done earlier. But it's an important decision, and we wanted to get it right," said Mr. Lucchino, who said team officials have been mulling smoking rules for more than two years. The Orioles, he said, will refund money to any customers who don't want their tickets.

But in a year when Orioles games again are expected to draw sellout crowds, team officials seemingly aren't too worried about being overwhelmed with returns.

"I've already had a call from a fan who came to one game last year. If we did something like this, the person promised to come to 15," Mr. Lucchino said.

Even some smokers seem to support the new rules.

Louise Keelty, a Baltimore lawyer who attended about 20 games last year, said the restrictions seemed fair "because there are people who might be offended by smoking and also the secondary smoke concern. If I want to take risks, that's OK. But I shouldn't force that on other people."

Smoking areas

Areas where smoking will be permitted next season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards:

* Lower and upper concourses.

* Bullpen picnic area.

* Right-field flag court.

* Eutaw Street corridor.

* Smoking also will be permitted on the club-level concourse, except for seven non-smoking areas. Luxury-box renters will determine whether smoking will be permitted in the enclosed lounge areas of their suites. The Baseball Writers Association of America determines the rules for the press box.

Ballpark restaurants also will have smoking and non-smoking sections.

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