Camden Station reopens today


February 18, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

For those who have been eager to see the interior of Camden Station ever since Oriole Park opened, the big day has finally arrived.

A locomotive's steam whistle will sound at 10 a.m. today to mark the opening of the "Coca-Cola All-Star Week Preview Center." The interactive baseball museum was created in the waiting room on the eastern end of the 1865 station.

The temporary exhibit was set up by the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority to promote the July 13 All Star Game in Baltimore and a baseball theme park called FanFest that will be set up July 8-July 14 in the Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall.

It will also give history and architecture buffs a chance to explore portions of the Italianate train station, which has been off-limits to the public.

"This will bring a great deal of attention to the old station," said Nolan H. Rogers, director of special projects for the Maryland Stadium Authority.

"There are a lot of railroad buffs in the area, and a lot of people who came through the station over the years. It's great to see this old building come alive again."

Today's reopening -- which coincides with the start of spring training tomorrow -- marks the first time in nearly a decade that any part of the station has been open. The work cost about $150,000.

"Last year, our tours of the ballpark sold out every day, and this year we wanted to give people more to do while they are downtown," said Janet Marie Smith, the Orioles' vice president for stadium planning and development.

"We've very quick to confess that this is not a full renovation. But we figure it will give people another half a day's worth of things to see and do outside the ballpark.

"So many people are eager to go to the All-Star Game that it's not possible to accommodate them all," she said. "FanFest is a way to enable more people to share in the excitement of All-Star Week."

For its reopening, the station has been draped in red, white and blue bunting, inside and out.

Exhibits in the 4,000-square-foot waiting room include displays about Orioles teams from the 1800s, Negro League players in Baltimore and Babe Ruth. A traveling exhibit is on loan from Major League Baseball. Participatory exhibits include a radar pitching booth, a video batting cage and a "fantasy photo" concession.

Providing a backdrop to it all is the station itself, with its high ceilings, refurbished lamps and long wooden benches. The former ticket office is now a souvenir shop.

The preview center will be open initially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Hours will be extended once the weather gets warmer. Admission is free, but there are individual charges for the participatory exhibits.

Cho Wilks and Benn was the architect, and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse was the contractor.

Other embellishments on Eutaw Street

Camden Station is the largest of several physical improvements that the Orioles and the Stadium Authority have made during the off season to "give Eutaw Street more personality," Ms. Smith said. Others include:

* "Long Ball Avenue" -- The Orioles embedded baseball-size markers on the spots where three home runs last year reached the Eutaw Street concourse. They were hit by Mickey Tettleton of the Tigers (406 feet); Kevin Reimer, now with the Brewers, then with the Rangers, (403 feet); and Lee Stevens, now with the Expos, then with the Angels, (430 feet). Whenever a ball hits the concourse, another marker will be placed in the pavement.

* Hall of Fame Wall: Nearly two dozen green and white plaques have been mounted along the west side of the concourse, profiling each member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.

* Retired numbers: On the plaza west of Camden Station, four tombstone-size aluminum markers have been erected to honor former Orioles whose numbers have been retired. Designed by graphic artist David Ashton, each is shaped in the form of the number the player wore: 5 (Brooks Robinson), 20 (Frank Robinson), 22 (Jim Palmer) and 4 (Earl Weaver).

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