Modell defends stadium design Ex-Oriole architect being sought by Ravens as consultant

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell steadfastly defended designs for the team stadium yesterday but at the same time said he is trying to hire former Oriole staff architect Janet Marie Smith as a consultant.

Modell said conversations with Smith, who was instrumental in the success of Oriole Park, had been continuing and had nothing to do with criticism of the preliminary designs for the football stadium. A resident of Baltimore who works in Atlanta, Smith is scheduled to talk to the Ravens Friday.

"She would not be responsible for redesigning anything or replacing any architects," Modell said. "We know what she did for Oriole Park. We want to see what she can do for us and what she can add."

The suggestion by some critics that construction be extended a year to allow more time for design are "totally, absolutely unacceptable," he said. "That stadium will open on time if I have to start hammering the nails myself.

"I'm delighted with the design. I think what you're about to see will be the finest football stadium built in this country."

Pressure for design changes began after the city's Architectural Review Board and other officials said the preliminary plans were unimaginative, with nothing to distinguish the stadium.

Key city planners will meet with the architects in the next week to push for design changes and discuss whether they are possible while adhering to the construction deadline. The stadium is scheduled to open in August 1998.

Yesterday, Modell promised a sta-

dium exterior dominated by glass and brick that would be compatible with neighboring Oriole Park, and an interior with an intimate view of the field that he said would be unique among traditional stadiums.

The outsides of stadiums "don't please people; it's what happens inside," Modell said. "Inside is what is critical here."

At a news conference yesterday afternoon at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, the Ravens updated the stadium plans. The latest drawings were more detailed but revealed no significant changes.

Dennis Wellner senior vice president of HOK, the Kansas City, Mo., firm that designed Oriole Park and the Ravens stadium, said he was "a little disappointed" that the plans have attracted criticism. But he said it has not provoked a major rethinking of the design.

"I don't think we're aware of anything we haven't asked ourselves," Wellner said. "I think the fans will warm to it. In seeing it and being able to absorb it, that will happen.

"This is not something that seems a prescription for failure at all."

A focus group consisting of holders of season tickets and single-game tickets is being created by the team to generate opinions about such elements of the stadium as concession stands, restrooms, transportation and what to put on the replay board.

Modell said he welcomed suggestions and criticisms aimed at improving the stadium design. "If it's valid, we'll change it," he said.

But he said he was unwilling to open the discussions to architects, urban planners and others.

"We'd start with a horse and come out with a camel," Modell said. "We don't want to redesign the wheel. I have enormous confidence in HOK. They're the best at what they do."

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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