Camden Yards touchups make good thing even better

April 02, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

What's new at Camden Yards?

Not much compared with last year, when the ballpark was uncharted territory for fans, ushers, even utility infielders.

But as the ballpark enters its second season, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Orioles have made a few changes. The reason: Only a few were needed.

"We're extra proud of how much planning went into the ballpark and how well it worked last year," said Janet Marie Smith, Orioles vice president and the team's chief ballpark planner.

Despite that, said Herbert J. Belgrad, the stadium authority chairman, officials spent most of the off-season working to preserve the ballpark's "forward momentum."

"We're not satisfied we have done everything we can do for fans in this ballpark," he said.

Briefly, a look at those refinements:

* A new auxiliary scoreboard.

An additional matrix (electronic dot) panel has gone up along the third-base line and should make scoreboard watching easier for those who see little or none of the center-field scoreboard from their seats.

The new board is 4 feet high by 62 feet long. It will show information about the Orioles game, including the batter's name, score and inning. It is the third mini-scoreboard in the park, joining others that hang in the left-field corner and first-base side.

The main scoreboard still will offer the widest range of baseball information. For fans who cannot see it, the new panel is the next-best thing.

"It's an added service to fans who can see that area more directly than they can see the center-field scoreboard," said Charles Steinberg, the Orioles' director of public affairs.

* Terrace-box televisions.

Remember the imperfect seats in the terrace level, where fans spent equal time staring at the batter's box and the overhanging club level? The problem is at least partially solved.

The club level hasn't been peeled off. But this year, fans in affected areas -- mostly the back four to five rows -- will be able to follow the game on 55 TVs newly mounted in their sections. The TVs will show game action, including the fascinating play rarely seen by fans in the last row -- the high pop-up.

* Orioles history.

More and more, the park is taking on the look of a baseball museum.

Last December, the Orioles unveiled a series of exhibits celebrating the team's history. On Opening Day, many fans will be seeing them for the first time. Included are a salute to Orioles whose uniform numbers have been retired and plaques honoring the 24 members of the team Hall of Fame. Eutaw Street also has a slightly metallic look this year. Three 5-inch brass baseballs have been embedded in the pedestrian walkway, each marking the spot of a home run hit out of the ballpark during the first season.

Other changes should make life at the ballpark less stressful.

The Orioles have added an information center in the lobby of the warehouse near Gate H. The center's hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the season, and it is expected to stay open later on game nights.

The stadium authority has heard the pleas -- and seen the lines -- on the club level. As a result, bathrooms have been expanded with the addition of four urinals in the men's rooms and four toilets in the women's restrooms.

Relief also is on the way for parents who come to the ballpark with young children. Plans are on track for a playground at the ballpark, located in an area inside the concourse gates but beyond traffic flow. The area, on the first-base side, could be open this year, but Orioles officials said they could not offer a date.

Fans shouldn't count on improvement in the much-discussed, much-maligned left-field seats.

Orioles and stadium authority officials are investigating ways to improve views from those areas, but a solution might not come this year.

Those seats, covering about four sections of lower box seats, were unpopular with fans, who complained that they point toward the outfield and away from most of the action.

During the winter, Orioles and stadium authority officials tested seats that slanted about 7 degrees toward the infield. Next month, they plan to install on a trial basis several rows of chairs with more severe slants -- about 8 1/2 degrees.

If those chairs get positive reviews, replacements could be ordered and installed in the affected sections by the All-Star Game in July, said Bruce Hoffman, stadium authority executive director.

Then again, it could be longer.

"We're all committed to getting this right," Hoffman said. "We're just looking for the right seat."

New and improved

Some of the off-season improvements made at Camden Yards:

* Auxiliary scoreboard installed on third-base side.

* Ticket windows added on main concourse.

* Street lighting installed near the light rail station at Conway and Howard streets.

* 55 televisions installed on terrace box level.

* Enlarged restrooms on club level.

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