THE MOST DIFFICULT job for the designers of Baltimore's new football stadium? Following their own act.
The baseball park that Kansas City-based HOK Sports Facilities Group designed at the north end of the Camden Yards complex several years ago didn't merely win universal acclaim; it changed the way the public envisions sports stadiums. Practically overnight, Oriole Park made cities and states wonder why they ever constructed cookie-cutter ballparks that resembled rejects from a spaceship factory.
The football-stadium planners say they want to build a "cousin" to Oriole Park, not a twin sister -- a sound philosophy. It would seem they are on the right track by looking at classic college football stadiums. College football, going back to the days of raccoon coats and "sis boom bah," has always evoked the timeless feel of baseball, more so than the professional game. "Notching" the corners of the stadium, so passersby can see in and fans within can savor Baltimore's skyline, is also a worthy idea. Anyone who has attended an event up the highway in Veterans Stadium knows that when sitting deep within that bowl, you couldn't tell if you are in Philadelphia or Arkadelphia.
The designers' quandaries? They don't have a romantic B&O Warehouse next door. The football site is hundreds of yards farther from center city than the baseball park, making it even more critical to create some link with all those bars, eateries and hotels downtown. The football stadium will eliminate 2,100 of the 5,300 parking spaces now at Camden Yards, another need to be addressed. And some folks would like a dome to expand the facility's usefulness, but that's a $20 million argument to strengthen concrete supports, plus $80 million or so later to build the dome. Another approach would be to add a steel framework later, even outside the original stadium, to accommodate a dome.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is something no architect's magic can't remedy: When the Orioles moved from Memorial Stadium, they brought with them 40 years of goodwill and sweet memories. Oriole Park rose atop the rock-solid foundation of a love cultivated between a town and its baseball team. The artisans who create a home for the new football club won't have that luxury.
Pub Date: 04/07/96