For football stadium boss, creative tension is building Camden Yards hard act to follow, says Hoffman

August 09, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Bruce Hoffman has a problem any engineer would love: topping one of the nation's most critically acclaimed public construction projects.

The executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority will be a key figure in construction of the $150 million football stadium planned for downtown if Baltimore is awarded an NFL expansion team. And he's already feeling the pressure to top his last project: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"It's so hard to follow Camden Yards," he said. "We have to be creative, or everybody is going to think we fell asleep on the second one."

Baltimore is one of four finalists competing for two NFL franchises scheduled to be awarded in October. The other cities are St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C., and Memphis, Tenn.

Hoffman already is thinking about the details. Where will people park? How will buses get in and out? How quickly can fans get out?

And what about the look? The stadium authority has used an artist's rendering of a brick-faced stadium that looks vaguely like the baseball stadium, but that's only a guess of what it would look like.

"It's not going to be space-age, but it's not Camden Yards, either. We already did that," Hoffman said.

Camden Yards showcased the tradition of baseball. Football is more about "excitement" than tradition, Hoffman said.

"Football is different. There's more function than form. We've got to do something about that, because people now expect a lot from Baltimore," Hoffman said.

As he did before building Camden Yards, Hoffman wants to lead a "field trip" of designers and public officials to glean ideas from top-notch stadiums such as Arrowhead in Kansas City, Mo., Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., and Joe Robbie in Miami. That could happen as early as September.

He already is advertising for construction managers. And he has asked the city's NFL committee for $200,000 in private funds to begin preliminary design and planning.

The state law that funded the stadium with lottery-backed bonds prohibits spending any money until a team is awarded. But that won't be until late October, giving Hoffman only 33 months to get ready for the 1996 season (the team would play its first season, 1995, at Memorial Stadium). He had 38 months to build the $106 million Camden Yards.

"I feel strongly that I need the extra eight weeks of planning," he said. "When we are told we have a team, we don't have time to look back."

The money could come from extra corporate donations or from the kitty developed by the NFL committee through donations and the profits of last year's preseason Dolphins-Saints game at Memorial Stadium, he said. He said he would like the work to begin this month.

The football stadium would be built adjacent to Camden Yards, in what is now a parking lot. As a result, there would be a loss of a few thousand parking spaces for baseball games. Planners have considered constructing a multideck parking garage, but Hoffman said the idea has not won a lot of backers because of the time it takes to empty a deck after a game.

The NFL has hired a consultant to begin reviewing the stadium designs of the contending cities, to see if they can produce the revenues claimed for them, Hoffman said. Baltimore's proposed stadium is considered one of the strong points of its application.

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