At Memorial Stadium: making work count Among first jobs, how many seats for Ravens games?

April 16, 1996|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Gary Lambrecht contributed to this article.

With just four months to go before the Ravens are scheduled to play their first game at Memorial Stadium, officials aren't even sure how many seats there are in the 42-year-old structure.

Delayed by a lease dispute with the former Canadian Football League tenant and a protracted fight to reapprove funding for a new stadium for the Baltimore Ravens, workers only now are beginning the task of bringing the team's temporary quarters up to NFL standards.

"We'll never get it to where we are at Camden Yards. We have very limited amounts of money to spend. And even if we had unlimited amounts of money, you would want to limit it because it may only be for two years," said Sherman B. Kerbel, director of facilities management for the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The Ravens will play there for two seasons while their new facility is built adjacent to Oriole Park. The first game is scheduled for August.

Mr. Kerbel acquired responsibility for the stadium upgrade when the Maryland Stadium Authority last week approved an agreement with the city to take over management of the city-owned Memorial Stadium during the football season.

"Everything has to be safe. That's the No. 1 job. Second is clean and third is making it as nice-looking a place as we can," he said.

Yesterday, officials of the NFL, Ravens and Stadium Authority toured the park.

After the tour, Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Stadium Authority, said: "It's never going to be as good as we'd like, but it will be good enough for what we want to do. I think it will all come together. It's a three-month job."

There's much to do and little to do it with: $1.08 million remains of a $2 million authorization that mostly was spent prepping the stadium for the CFL Stallions. "It's easy to spend a lot of money and waste it," Mr. Hoffman said. "Our plan is to spend as little as we can."

Among the first jobs: counting the seats.

Mr. Kerbel said no one is quite sure how many operative seats are in the stadium, because the most recent tenant, the Stallions, rarely drew more than 30,000, so the city was able to cannibalize seat parts from unused sections to keep the main seating areas in repair.

The Stadium Authority wants to get its seating up to 65,000, significantly above what can be accommodated now. The Stallions drew a crowd of 42,116, and the Orioles drew a baseball record 54,458 at a 1966 World Series game. The Colts, who added temporary seating in the open portion of the stadium's north end, set a record of 61,479 in 1983.

Plans call for adding bleacher seating in the north end and along one side of the field, at a cost of about $500,000.

Other work on the drawing board: adding auxiliary scoreboards, fixing up the press box, re-aiming the lights for an NFL-sized field, cleaning up the visitor's locker room and replacing an electrical transformer.

New windows may be installed on the sky boxes and possibly some new carpeting, but no extensive work is planned.

Once the team begins play, the Stadium Authority expects it will cost about $1.8 million a year to run -- costs the state is responsible for under its agreement with the Ravens. The team will keep all revenues, pay no rent but will cover all day-of-game expenses (when it moves to its new stadium at Camden Yards, the team will reimburse the state for operating costs at the new facility).

Under its agreement with the city, the Stadium Authority will pay for the stadium operations out of ticket taxes charged fans. The city usually gets 20 percent of the money raised by the 10 percent tax, and will have to kick in if the operating costs exceed the state's share.

It appears the city will have to forgo at least part of the revenue. If the Ravens average 64,000 fans at $33 a ticket, the ticket tax will raise $2.1 million, of which the Stadium Authority would receive $1.68 million.

Its agreement with the state also gives the city use of two sky boxes and 10 seats.

Because the stadium's future has been uncertain since the Orioles moved to Camden Yards, the city has not invested greatly in its upkeep.

"There's been at least five to 10 years of benign neglect where nothing was done beyond the minimum. There's also a layer of dirt on the concourses," Mr. Kerbel said.

Toilets will have to be systematically flushed and tested, water lines shored up and electrical systems checked. About 15 additional people will be hired, but Mr. Kerbel is doing all hiring with an eye on having people who will shift over to the new stadium when it opens.

Ravens owner Art Modell said he recalls some thrilling Browns-Colts games there, and, although he doesn't consider it state-of-the-art, he's willing to spend a couple of seasons in the owner's box.

"Memorial Stadium is a great, old ballpark. It's a lot better than Cleveland Stadium. Which isn't saying much."

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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