Angelos would like to add 10,000 Oriole Park seats

January 29, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos said yesterday that he is exploring plans to increase seating capacity at Camden Yards by as many as 10,000 seats and that he may seek to finance the project with some of the money now targeted for construction of a downtown football stadium.

"As far as I am concerned, the Orioles are the most positive advertisement the state of Maryland has today, and we intend to keep it that way," Mr. Angelos said. "If there are surplus funds, let's use a part of that to accommodate the literally thousands of people daily beseeching the Orioles front office for tickets."

Mr. Angelos said he has discussed his plans with a few state lawmakers and hopes to present them soon to Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad.

Mr. Angelos added that he'll ask the stadium's architects, HOK Sports Facilities Group, to consider the idea and to report back on whether a significant expansion might dilute the charm of the nationally acclaimed ballpark.

"The ambience and the special quality, that must be preserved," Mr. Angelos said.

Mr. Angelos said it was too soon to predict the location of any additional seats at the stadium, which now has a seating capacity of 48,079.

"I don't want to speculate in any way how this could be done," he said.

But several possibilities have been discussed with the Orioles owner, including an addition to the left-field grandstand that would extend behind the stadium picnic grove. Last year, Mr. Angelos also proposed a 1,200-seat grandstand, with tickets to be distributed free to local school children.

Legislators said an Oriole Park expansion should be considered with the many other possible uses for the football bond money.

"It would be an attractive alternative for part of the authorization, but it should be studied," said Prince George's Del. Timothy F. Maloney.

"I am not prepared at this point to discuss this suggestion I am hearing for the first time," Mr. Belgrad said. "Any time the Orioles have a proposal for improvements to the ballpark, the stadium authority is happy to sit down and discuss it."

In proposing the additional seats, Mr. Angelos said he wasn't working against efforts to woo an NFL franchise to Baltimore. He would only seek the money, he said, if those overtures aren't successful.

In fact, Mr. Angelos said he is concerned that a Feb. 14 deadline for attracting an NFL team works against the goal of bringing a franchise to Baltimore.

Mr. Schaefer imposed the deadline this month, saying the state needs to resolve the situation so it can deal with Jack Kent Cooke's plan to shift the Washington Redskins to Laurel. Baltimore officials also were eager for a deadline, because the city is seeking a Canadian Football League franchise.

But Mr. Angelos objected, saying, "The deadline arose because of the mayor's interest in forging some kind of arrangement with the Canadian Football league. If the mayor thinks it is a good idea, I would agree, but it should not be done if the presence of such a franchise might prevent the NFL from coming. We should be striving to be major-league in all our sports franchises."

Mr. Angelos seemed lukewarm, at best, to a proposal to use the football money to build a sports arena for the National Hockey League Capitals and National Basketball Association Bullets. That idea has been widely discussed in recent weeks, since sports entrepreneur Abe Pollin let it be known he'd like to leave USAir Arena in Landover for a state-financed building.

Mr. Angelos said once an arena is built, Baltimore has effectively given up on the NFL.

"Why this tremendous hurry to rush into something?" he asked.

The Orioles owner said he had been involved in efforts to bring an existing team to Baltimore, including a recent, short-lived attempt to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse, who is ill with cancer, reportedly is interested in selling. But Mr. Angelos said he was told the team wasn't available, and that, when it is, it likely will be sold to Florida investors.

Expansion of the baseball stadium by 10,000 seats would undoubtedly be an expensive project, with cost estimates ranging as high as $20 million.

The Orioles would stand to reap immediate benefits, because ticket revenue generated by the extra seats would go to them.

But Mr. Angelos said he was making the proposal to assist Orioles fans who can't buy tickets to the games, which mostly are sellouts. The team has a list of 10,000 customers waiting for season tickets.

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