Stadiums' neighbors fret over parking Residents anticipate jammed streets, litter

The Nfl Returns To Baltimore

February 11, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF Staff writer Brad Snyder contributed to this article.

Legislators can continue to debate whether it is wise public policy to pay millions for a new football stadium. Fans can discuss the merits of various nicknames and coaches for Baltimore's NFL team.

But, for residents around Camden Yards, where a 70,000-seat stadium is scheduled to open in 1998, and Memorial Stadium, where the relocated Cleveland franchise is to play this fall and next, the concerns are more basic.

Where will all those spectators -- and the residents -- park? What streets will be closed? Who will pick up the litter?

Those and other questions were raised yesterday at a community meeting in Otterbein and on the streets of Waverly and Ednor Gardens -- a day after the NFL owners approved Cleveland's move to Baltimore.

At a 1 1/2 -hour meeting at Martini Lutheran Church, residents from Federal Hill, Ridgely's Delight and other South Baltimore neighborhoods said the net loss of 1,000 parking spaces that will be taken from Oriole Park at Camden Yards lots for the new stadium will leave inadequate spaces for football games and make the parking situation for baseball games go from bad to worse.

Some neighborhoods near the stadium restrict parking to residents and their guests. But many complained yesterday that restrictions already in place are poorly enforced, and they worried that expanding the restrictions would hurt churches and businesses.

"It is horrible trying to park as it is," said the Rev. Wendell Christopher, pastor of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church on Montgomery Street, one of about 30 residents who faced an array of city and state officials. "If you have anything at the church, it is impossible to park."

"You've got to keep the traffic flow out of the community," added Carl Wilkins, a representative of the South Baltimore Improvement Committee. "You've got people who live here and have no place to go. You can't reduce parking options for neighbors."

Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the authority would encourage fans to park in downtown garages north of the stadium and take the light rail to games.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to have blacktop parking lots all over the city," he said.

Others said the stadium authority needed to take responsibility for the conduct of its patrons in the neighborhood.

Christopher Bruns, secretary of the Washington Village Improvement Association, said baseball fans often drink before games, leaving empty beer bottles on the streets that are quickly broken.

"Something needs to be done about that," he said.

Victoria Hopwood-Bruns, president of the association, said she was worried that part of the millions of dollars in federal funds earmarked to revitalize poor neighborhoods would somehow be diverted to the new stadium, which is located just inside the empowerment zone boundaries.

She also said residents of Pigtown had realized little economic benefit from Oriole Park, adding, "My feeling is, the same thing will happen with the football stadium."

Not everyone shared the sentiment that the new stadium would harm the area.

"We're very supportive and excited. We feel this can have a nice impact on our business," said Tom Chagouris, president of Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood at the Cross Street Market.

At the venerable Stadium Lounge near Memorial Stadium in Waverly, bartender Stacey Brauer felt the same way.

She expects the NFL team to attract far more customers than the Canadian Football League Stallions, which last week announced a move to Montreal after two seasons in which about half the stadium's seats were filled on game days.

"I know we'll be busier," she said.

Nearby residents expressed mixed emotions.

Nathaniel Price, who has lived a block west of Memorial Stadium for 18 years, isn't looking forward to the return of 60,000-plus people on Sunday afternoons.

"You don't have any place to park," he said. "I wish they could find some place else to play."

But Shawanda Clark, who lives a half-block from the stadium, said it was worth the "hassle."

"See how quiet it is here? We need the games to get adrenalin going," she said.

Jim Fendler, president of the Waverly Improvement Association, agreed, saying he hoped the NFL team would choose the Memorial Stadium site as a permanent training facility once the new stadium was built.

"Anything that happens there is a positive for the community," he said.

When the Colts played there the games started at 2 p.m., an hour later than other NFL games, because of concerns by area churches that the games would conflict with Sunday services.

"I would hope that doesn't come up again," Mr. Fendler said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said that and any other issues would be resolved easily by a long-standing Memorial Stadium task force.

"I think the community is going to find the NFL team a real good neighbor," the mayor said.

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