Clean sweep gets park ready in double time

July 27, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

The troops move in minutes after Cal Ripken caught the last out, hundreds of them sweeping through the grandstands hauling plastic trash bags, still more deployed on the concourse wielding brooms and driving electric tractors.

Less than two hours to go before the gates would open for Game 2 of the Orioles' first day-night doubleheader at home in 33 years. Five, six hours of work to do in two. Around Camden Yards, everybody seems to be moving.

"We sort of laid it out in teams," says Donald Rankin, president of Harry M. Stevens Maintenance Services Inc. "Kind of like going to war."

He's standing in the grandstands as about 300 people are fanning out through the seats with plastic bags, more than double the usual cleanup crew. They pick the trash, bag it, haul it out to the concourse. Forget the power wash, forget removing the peanut shells. No time for that.

Rankin flew in from a meeting in Houston to oversee this operation, the culmination of four weeks of preparation that started with hiring hundreds more temporary workers.

All this became necessary when the Orioles decided on a double admission twin bill to make up an Indians game rained out on May 7. The team decided against a conventional one-admission doubleheader largely because of money, says Joe Foss, vice chairman of business and finance. One more gate means about another $100,000. It also gives more fans a chance to see a game, he says.

"In some respects, it was a fun logistical exercise," says Foss. "To try to pull this off."

The chief on the front lines of the fun is Roy A. Sommerhof, director of stadium operations, who is walking around the ballpark with his walkie-talkie like some field marshal. Tractors are rolling past hauling loads of trash out to five Dumpsters lined up along Russell Street, where the traffic is backed up in both directions. "You're going to see more trash than anything else," says Sommerhof.

Rankin figures they'll have to move about four or five tons of trash before the second game begins.

Sommerhof is checking with ballpark officials all over Camden Yards. Work that would normally be done in the wee hours after a night game is going on now in fast motion.

"It's looking better than I thought it was going to look at this time," says Sommerhof, striding through the club level where crew members are vacuuming private suites, setting up party suites with snacks, drinks, tables and chairs.

At the club level's Diamond Restaurant, servers and chefs are preparing for special guests: The Orioles. Instead of eating their usual post-game clubhouse fare of chicken, ribs, barbecue, the team will eat from the afternoon buffet menu, which today includes carved roast beef with "coarse grain mustard and horseradish" and penne with wild mushrooms, roasted peppers and alfredo sauce.

The Cleveland Indians will be served the same menu in their clubhouse. All this plus a $2,000 bonus per player to compensate for the inconvenience of the extra game.

By 5:30 p.m., many of the people making about $5 an hour to wield the plastic bags are wearing the bags as raincoats. The grandstands are clean, the parking lot is empty, concession stands are restocked. Sommerhof is counting blessings.

Forces beyond the management's control have cooperated.

For one, the Orioles and the Indians kept the game relatively short: 2 hours, 58 minutes, missing by just seven minutes the target game-end time of 4:30. For another, it rained lightly early lTC in the game, but the skies did not open until after 5, when the stadium had emptied.

And although the paid attendance was posted at 43,578, the count of people through the turnstiles was 22,472, according to the Maryland Stadium Authority. Fewer people means less trash, fewer cars, less food sold and little restocking of concession stands.

By 5:42, Rick Elvon of Harry M. Stevens Maintenance reports to Sommerhof via walkie-talkie that all looks good for the 6:30 gate opening.

As it turns out, the only snag developed before the game, as fans waited on long lines to pick up their tickets at "will call" windows. Orioles public relations director Charles A. Steinberg says extra windows were opened, but because 16,000 tickets went on sale only two Fridays ago, many fans apparently decided to pick up their tickets rather than have them mailed.

The gates open on time. The rains continue. The field is covered. The players wait. The fans wait. So, really, what was the hurry?

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