Don't delay Ravens' stadium Design criticisms: Extra year to plan football stadium would do more harm than good.

June 16, 1996

DEMAND A GREAT football stadium, Baltimore. Stay on top of the parties designing it. Make sure parking is not a headache, landscaping is not an afterthought and that a link can be forged at some point between the stadium and the Middle Branch waterfront.

But delay by one year the 1998 scheduled opening? Nonsense.

Postponing this project with no specific remedy -- if one is warranted -- would be a waste of time and money. The delay would cost $30 million in ticket sales to the Baltimore Ravens and in construction overruns to taxpayers, not to mention lost revenue to restaurants, hotels and other businesses counting on spinoff trade.

Janet Marie Smith, who helped design Oriole Park and is now working on an even more ambitious deadline for the Atlanta Olympics, says there's no need to take an extra year to design the Ravens stadium. Improvements can be made as building progresses, just as happened next door at Oriole Park.

The knocks on the football design have been amorphous. Critics who say it doesn't remind them of Oriole Park forget this isn't being built for baseball. But like Oriole Park, it will have a brick facade (unique among National Football League stadia), exposed steel and views of the downtown skyline. Its biggest problem is the success of Oriole Park, which has created huge expectations. The Ravens stadium is having trouble measuring up to the acclaimed baseball park; perhaps no football stadium could.

Aside from Soldier Field in Chicago with its Greco-Roman columns and Texas Stadium with its cutaway roof, probably no other NFL stadium in America could meet what architects are calling the "blimp test"; that is, a structure easily identified from an aerial TV shot. Whether or not this stadium is blimp-friendly, Marylanders will be more impressed if it is a user-friendly, comfortable and handsome place to watch a ballgame. Don't forget that when Oriole Park opened, it was no object d'art to fans who sat in those left-field foul-line seats with right-angle sight lines.

Criticism of the football stadium design has been useful as a motivator for the Maryland Stadium Authority and the architects. But a year's delay would be harmful, embarrassing and unnecessary.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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