BOWIE -- A 21-month quest by the Bowie Baysox to reach their settlement place will culminate tonight with the official opening of Prince George's County Stadium.
The Baysox will christen the still-unfinished structure with little fanfare and an Eastern League game against the Binghamton Mets.
The nightmares of a season and a half without a permanent home will end for Bowie, which played home games in 1993 at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium and this year at four widely scattered sites.
But the dream of a spanking new stadium that is completely operational still is not fully realized.
"It will be more like a county fair than anything," said Peter Kirk, chief executive officer of Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership, Inc., which owns the team.
"The field is in great shape, and the seats and scoreboards are in, but beyond that are a lot of temporary facilities. Every day beyond the opener, things are going to be a little bit better here."
Oriole executives Roland Hemond and Doug Melvin toured the site Monday and approved the field for play. A 50-yard section of sod in the deepest part of the outfield was installed only last week.
"We're truly excited," Kirk said. "We'd like the project to be further along, but we're ready to play ball. This is pretty much the way we opened at Frederick."
Parking is going to be a problem -- especially for latecomers -- and the Baysox are urging fans to park at satellite lots and take shuttle buses to the stadium.
General manager Keith Lupton said some concern is being expressed about the number of general admission tickets that have been sold for the opener and reminds general admission patrons that seating will be first-come, first-served.
The stadium has 3,000 box seats and a general admission capacity of up to 6,000.
"There are about 60,000 general admission tickets out there, but 39 dates to use them," Lupton said. "We know we'll pack the place [tonight], but things will get back to normal quickly after that."
When finished, Prince George's County Stadium will be a picturesque park with a tree-lined landscape beyond the outfield fence, grassy areas deep along each foul line, spacious dugouts, box seats identical to Camden Yards (with a minimum of 33 inches of foot space) a 120-seat restaurant and a home clubhouse equipped with a players' lounge, batting cages and weight equipment.
The field dimensions are identical to Memorial Stadium -- 309 feet down the lines, 405 to dead center and 370 in the power alleys. The scoreboard package includes a four-color message board.
There won't be many frills for what looms as a hot opening night with the temperature projected to reach 100 degrees today.
"Miss Maryland will sing the national anthem, and we're working on someone to throw out the first pitch," Lupton said. "There will be a few fireworks, but we're just happy to be playing baseball."
Nonetheless, officials are expecting huge crowds through the end of the month when the Baysox are home every day except two.
The team will be coming home from Albany, N.Y., after a 10-game road trip and is scheduled to arrive in Bowie early today.
Annapolis native Rick Forney (5-4) is scheduled to be the opening-game pitcher. Forney is 1-4 in his past eight starts since May 1.
Site: Prince George's County Stadium, Bowie
Time: 7:05 tonight
Gates open: 5:30
Opponent: Binghamton Mets
First pitch: To be announced
Completed: Field, seating areas, scoreboards
Incomplete: Parking lots, concession stands, restrooms, team clubhouses, press box, gift shop, restaurant, sky boxes. Portable restrooms, concession stands and souvenir stands will be used.
$Directions to stadium * From Baltimore Beltway, take I-97 south past Severna Park. Exit Md. 3 south, which becomes U.S. 301. In Bowie area, turn left to stadium or proceed to satellite parking.
* From Capital Beltway, take U.S. 50 east to Md. 197 south. Turn left on U.S. 301 to stadium or proceed to satellite parking.
Satellite parking * Collington Plaza on 301 or Northview Drive (off Md. 197) across from Rip's Park. Shuttle buses at both sites.