Some Orioles fans are parking in church lots Congregations provide sanctuary for a few bucks

June 10, 1996|By S. Mitra Kalita | S. Mitra Kalita,SUN STAFF

Where can Orioles fans find peace from the headaches of parking on game night?

The same place people have found peace for years -- church.

To raise extra cash and ease the paucity of parking for Orioles games, at least two churches within walking distance of Camden Yards have opened their lots to O's patrons.

Churches offering parking for games is nothing new, but fans seem to know little about it.

Martini Lutheran Church and St. Jerome's Rectory in South Baltimore have provided parking for games since the baseball stadium opened three years ago.

But the apparent lack of interest in or awareness of church parking forced St. Jerome's on West Hamburg Street to discontinue parking for night games in the first year, Monsignor Arthur Bastress said.

Requesting a $5 donation for day parking, St. Jerome's -- 2 1/2 long blocks from Oriole Park -- does most of its business during big games, such as Opening Day and the All-Star game, he said.

Martini Lutheran charges $4 for parking, day or night. On a good night, the church at Henrietta and Hanover streets fills 20 of its 85 parking spaces, volunteer parking attendant Thurman Graves said.

Bastress and Graves said they hope the expected opening of the NFL Ravens' stadium at Camden Yards in two years will help business -- but they may not have to wait that long. The stadium is to be built on a site that now is a key parking area for Oriole Park.

For now, the churches rely on word of mouth to keep parking enterprises going. Tucked in communities near the stadium, the churches also count on lost fans searching for parking to "stumble" upon the lots, Graves said.

"I found it after every other lot I was trying to park in was full," said Jenny Guy of Baltimore County, after parking her car before Wednesday's game against the Detroit Tigers.

Alan and Linda Miller of Bel Air found Martini Lutheran when they were caught up in stadium traffic two years ago. "It's a real hassle to get into the stadium from anywhere else," Alan Miller said. "Now we know to come here."

Graves said many who park at the lot come from out of state. "Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, New York and New Jersey ," he said. "Many people from these states get lost, find us and just keep coming back."

Once in a while, Graves said, police bring fans to the lot to prevent them from parking illegally on residential streets near Oriole Park.

Nearby residents welcome the church parking as an alternative to the noise, traffic and illegally parked cars they often encounter.

"My pet peeve is [people] who park at my door," said Clifton Bond of Otterbein. "They could just as easily be parking at the church lots."

With parking at hotels and garages ranging from $5 to $9, both fans and church lot operators said the church parking is a good deal.

Guy described parking at Martini Lutheran, which is 3 1/2 blocks from the stadium, as a "cheap deal that helps the church."

Graves said all money collected from parking helps the church. "Inner-city churches really have a hard time and we need any funding we can get," he said.

St. Jerome's donated half of about $200 in parking revenues collected at four games this year to the city's Head Start program. While parking at the stadium lot is $5, the traffic is unbearable, fans said. An added benefit of parking at a church lot is that fans don't have to deal with the traffic leaving the stadium lot, said Laura Glass of Annapolis.

"I timed it once," she said. "It took me 25 minutes. Here, my car is in ready-set mode."

Pub Date: 6/10/96

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