What's missing from stadium plan Ravens' roost: Ignoring Middle Branch waterfront is project's biggest shortcoming.

July 28, 1996

THE MOST UNINSPIRED part of the plan to erect a football stadium for the Ravens is not the exterior design. The proposed facade of brick and glass looks classic and would complement Oriole Park. Someone else might prefer a stadium that resembles an egg or a ship or a gas storage tank, among the ideas that architects submitted to The Sun weeks ago, but that is a matter of taste.

The true shortcoming of this plan is its failure to capitalize on its proximity to the industrial waterfront of the Upper Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. It is as if those responsible for Oriole Park had agreed to retain the B&O Warehouse, but to leave it abandoned and decrepit.

The middle branch will be only two blocks from Baltimore's new NFL stadium. Unfortunately, four sets of train tracks and the Ostend Street viaduct separate the Camden Yards site from the water. But planners could probably find a way around or over those obstacles.

Even in its present unpolished state, the Middle Branch is obviously a jewel. Standing on its north shore, a visitor might think he was in some faraway wetlands preserve. The chatter of bird-song competes with the yipping dogs inside the nearby city animal shelter. Waves of cattails sway in a moist, midsummer breeze.

Just as Harborplace revitalized the Inner Harbor, and a new boardwalk in Havre de Grace is boosting tourism in that bay-side town, a promenade along the Middle Branch could enliven the area and the stadium complex. It could help fulfill the promise that Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman John Moag made at the stadium ground-breaking: To have Ravens stadium "do for the NFL what Oriole Park did for major-league baseball."

In 1994, city planners and architects drafted a report trumpeting the ability of the Middle Branch to vault a downtown football stadium into an entertainment complex, with retail and restaurant possibilities. They compared the potential to the link between the Alamodome and Riverwalk attraction in San Antonio.

No one paid much heed then, since the National Football League's returning to Charm City seemed a pipe dream. Now that the Ravens are a reality, it would be a missed opportunity for city, state and team officials not to look hard again at the Middle Branch report.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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