Ravens' timetable draws O's ire Ask construction delay, citing parking fears

July 17, 1996|By Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora | Buster Olney and Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are in dispute over the timing of the construction of the Ravens' new football stadium, which, under its current timetable, will disrupt parking for fans at Orioles games this season.

John Moag, chairman of the stadium authority, said yesterday that groundbreaking on the new stadium is scheduled to begin July 23. The Orioles are allotted 5,000 parking spaces on the Camden Yards grounds, according to their lease. Moag said that under the current timetable, there will be slightly less than 5,000 on Aug. 1. From Sept. 6-12, there will 4,000 parking spaces available, and for the final three scheduled home games, Sept. 20-22, that number will dwindle to 3,000.

Officials from the Orioles -- who will be compensated for 5,000 parking spaces whether there is construction or not, as part of their lease -- are upset that the MSA doesn't simply wait until after the regular season or possible postseason before inconveniencing Orioles fans. The problem, officials say, will become even more acute should the Orioles qualify for the postseason.

Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss said last night, "The Orioles' concern, first and foremost, is for our fans and their need to have access to safe and close parking near Camden Yards, the kind of parking they're accustomed to.

"In everyone's desire to begin construction of the football stadium expeditiously, it is the Orioles' concern that the interests of our fans are not left behind."

One Orioles official, speaking on the condition he not be identified, said, "They're talking about a lot of our fans having to find alternative parking for a large number of games. You're talking about two football [exhibitions] vs. 47,000 of our fans per game for a whole bunch of games."

But Moag says the MSA can't wait if it is to complete the football stadium in time for the 1998 exhibition season.

"We're on a very tight schedule," he said. "If we move back any later than August, we would have to seriously disrupt that. According to the lease, the Orioles had to be prepared to lose parking spaces with the arrival of the football team.

"We have to get started. It's a six- or seven-month process to install the top layers of a field from Memorial Stadium and everything underneath. We're going to have to dig a huge hole and displace everything for that. We have a schedule of things we need to get done before we can do that.

"We want to try to do as much as we can to make sure it's a gradual disturbance. We'd like to minimize the discomfort for Orioles fans. We hope we can work with the Orioles to do that."

According to an Orioles source, the lease says the MSA is required to make its "best effort" to avoid parking disruptions during the baseball season, and to work with the Orioles toward a resolution; this is at the core of the dispute.

Moag said he's aware of the Orioles' objections, and has received a letter from the club outlining those concerns. He said he responded with a letter of his own yesterday, to Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

"Mr. Angelos brought in a couple of consultants," Moag said, "and they should have their report ready for him by the end of the week. I told Mr. Angelos in my letter that I would be happy to consider any alternatives to minimize the disruption."

The MSA has produced 100,000 brochures, orange-colored, for distribution to fans, describing what Moag says are 30,000 parking spaces within walking distance of Camden Yards. But some Orioles officials say many of those spaces are inconvenient for fans and don't want the fliers released until the construction issue is resolved -- particularly not in the Orioles' color, which they see as a tacit endorsement of the plan.

"We have to follow our schedule as closely as possible," Moag said. "There are lots of financial repercussions. . . . When you lose even two weeks at the front end of a project like this, it throws everything else off. It can create major complications. It could seriously screw up our winter schedule. It's not simply a matter of saying hold off for three or four weeks and make the Ravens wait."

Pub Date: 7/17/96

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