Let's market the Power Plant as what it is: a white elephant


August 05, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Three years ago, I presented a good idea (if I do say s myself) for the Power Plant, and none of the so-called tourism experts listened to me. Now, who knows? Maybe the PP will become office space for Alex. Brown. Maybe it won't. Too bad the chowderheads didn't listen to me. My concept could have become reality a year ago. We could have rolled this baby out and filled the place with paying customers. Instead, what do we have? A white elephant.

Which gets me to my proposal.

I say call the Power Plant what it is: The White Elephant. Convert it into a combination flea market/antiques emporium/auction house featuring vintage-clothing boutiques, art galleries, a tchotchke shop, a second-hand book store, a funky second-hand jewelry shop, eclectic consignment shops, an Amish market and a baseball card/autograph exchange. Imagine a big, noisy hall full of flea market tables surrounded by stalls occupied by Baltimore's best second-hand merchants; they would love a shot at the location. A major house could stage auctions twice daily. Several antiques dealers, working individually or in cooperatives, could put some of their best items on sale. Local and regional artists and craftspeople could place their work in galleries. There would be a daily White Elephant sale in the main hall.

Convention widows would flock to the Elephant, and lunchtime crowds could check it out every day with the expectation of seeing something different. A visitor would not be able to leave the Inner Harbor without exploring this urban bazaar. I'm tellin' ya, it's a winner.

This scalping is legal

The looming baseball strike might render further discussion of ticket scalping irrelevant, but I can't resist one more item on the issue. After all, it's not every day you actually talk to someone who paid $75 for a ticket to an Orioles game. John Ames, an attorney in Louisville, Ky., paid $300 for four tickets to last Sunday's game against the Jays at Camden Yards. Ames went with his wife -- she still doesn't know how much he paid for the tickets -- and two children. The Ames family flew to Baltimore for the weekend, with the hope of checking out the Inner Harbor and seeing a ball game. When John Ames went hunting tickets, he learned -- oh, Jafar, why am I not surprised? -- the game was sold out. Someone told him about a ticket broker in Catonsville, Executive Tickets. Ames bought four tickets. Peter Jacobsen, the 35-year-old operator of Executive Tickets, says $75 is what he charges for seats in the lower boxes. And Jacobsen gets those seats only from season-ticket holders -- and only at a mark-up. (Everybody's lookin' to make a buck in this game.)

Jacobsen, who grew up across from Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and learned the scalper's trade early in life, says he opened his Catonsville ticket brokerage the year Oriole Park opened. "I saw there would be a demand," he says. A lot of Jacobsen's clients are like the Ames family -- tourists taking advantage of discount airfare to spend a weekend in a city that has received national attention for, among other things, its new ballpark. They show up at a downtown hotel, ask about tickets and a savvy concierge refers them to Jacobsen.

John Ames says he thinks he got his money's worth. He saw the Orioles and the Blue Jays. He saw two great plays in the 8th inning. "Downtown Baltimore was great, like a festival, on Sunday," he says. "I had one shot in Baltimore, to see a game, in 10 years, so I took it." But, in light of the so-called crackdown on ticket scalpers near Camden Yards, he wonders if Executive Tickets is a legal entity.

No law prevents scalping at a distance -- through newspaper ads or agencies far from the stadium. "Ticket scalping is illegal in Baltimore City," says Jacobsen, "and that's why I'm in Baltimore County. There's nothing illegal about what I'm doing." Last year, after reports of someone paying a broker $85 for a $13 ticket to an Orioles game, there was effort in the state legislature to put guys like Jacobson out of business. It failed. Free enterprise reigns.

No more nicknames!

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