A stadium worthy of Camden Yards Ravens' nest: Marylanders expect football project to be as memorable as baseball park.

June 04, 1996

FOOTBALL is not baseball. There's less time to plan a new home for the Baltimore Ravens than was allotted to create Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There's only one B&O Warehouse. The South Baltimore waterfront can't be linked easily to the stadium because it's a couple of football fields away and separated by railroad tracks.

Indeed, those defenses offered by the groups designing the National Football League stadium downtown -- the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Ravens and HOK Sports Facilities Group, the architects who planned Oriole Park -- are all true. But none of them will matter a lick after this stadium is up. Folks aren't going to say, "Nice place, considering the logistical constraints." They won't give a hoot -- or a caw -- about all that, nor should they.

Marylanders are paying $200 million and want a place that makes them proud, like Oriole Park. Stadium officials and HOK have a dilemma they helped create: The public knows what a great stadium looks like. Baltimoreans love the feel of Oriole Park. And businesses know the commerce a great park can generate.

In defense of the designers, at a comparable stage Oriole Park didn't look like it does today. Not until Orioles owner Eli Jacobs toured Kansas City's baseball stadium near HOK's headquarters did he insist on sinking the park below ground level to improve its scale. Only then did that structure come together as we know it.

Also, many of the accoutrements that make Oriole Park memorable -- the huge scoreboard with the bird weather vanes, the decorative pennants, the Eutaw Street promenade -- evolved later. Nevertheless, even Edgar Allan Poe might get a haunted sense from the excuses and diminished expectations oozing from the football design camp. Baltimore doesn't need another Arena, a facility outmoded and forgettable the day it opened.

The designers, who have an enviable track record, like to say they're building a "cousin" of the baseball park. Cute, but it seems to ignore an inherent sibling rivalry. It would be a shame if the first impression of the Ravens' nest is, "Nice, but not as pretty as her sister." Marylanders demand and expect another distinctive, captivating, first-class stadium.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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