Parking woes feared for Ravens debut 67,000 people expected at 1st exhibition game

stadium spaces scarce

'It could spell disaster'

Officials encourage use of buses, light rail to attend team events

July 28, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Memorial Stadium should come back to life Saturday with 67,000 fans expected for the Ravens' first exhibition game -- if they're able to find a place to park.

"It's a huge crowd, and it could spell disaster if too many people decide to take their cars to the game," said Maryland Stadium Authority Executive Director Bruce H. Hoffman. "It's conceivable could have 15,000 cars converging on 5,000 parking spaces. If that happens, people are going to be sitting in their cars through the first half."

It promises to be the biggest crowd at Memorial Stadium, where 5,000 seats have been added for Baltimore's return to the National Football League. But while excitement is high, so is tension over potential traffic problems.

"It's going to be as bad as it's ever been," says Keith Wood, 30, who has lived beside the stadium in the 700 block of 34th St. since he was 6.

"Traffic was always pitiful when the Colts were here. You can't park, and people get nasty, rude and ignorant looking for spaces and it just makes a huge, giant mess."

The cure, says Hoffman and state officials, is public transportation. The Mass Transit Administration hopes to haul between 18,000 and 20,000 fans to each of the Ravens' games -- about triple the number who take public transportation to Orioles games at Camden Yards.

Nearly 300 MTA buses will be gathering people throughout the metro area Saturday in one of the biggest tests for the state's public transportation system. Most park-and-ride lots inside and outside the Beltway will offer people the chance to park their cars and ride to Memorial Stadium for $5.

About 10,000 parking spaces will be available at 13 MTA park-and-ride bus sites, said Anthony Brown, an MTA spokesman who said: "We're hoping people are going to realize that the buses, metro, light rail and MARC trains are the most convenient way to travel to the games."

State officials say the parking climate around the stadium changed along with the habits of nearby residents, some of whom switched from being one-car to two-car families after the Orioles moved to Camden Yards.

The result is less parking space in the area.

"The parking spot that you had 12 to 15 years ago when you went to a Colts game is very likely not there anymore," Hoffman said.

Another problem is that there will be far fewer restaurant- and bar-chartered buses bringing people to the stadium, which Baltimore Colts fans found to be a convenient way to travel to the games 12 years ago before the team moved to Indianapolis.

"It used to be that every bar and saloon had a bus going to the game. It's not that way anymore," Hoffman said.

The Orioles top draw at Memorial Stadium was about 54,000 fans. While the stadium saw some use by Jim Speros' CFL team the past two seasons, the biggest draw was 42,000.

Some Ravens fans have gotten the message that times have changed.

Charles Glatfelter, a York, Pa., resident who came to watch last Saturday's Ravens' team practice at the stadium, said he'll be driving to Timonium on game days and taking the bus for the last leg of the route.

"The people coming from Pennsylvania will take the buses. When you're coming from far away, you generally plan out your travel a little more," Glatfelter said.

Irvin Bailey lives in the Northwood section of Baltimore, and he says he's not going to take any chances by driving to the games.

"I wouldn't take my car down there. You'd be asking for a lot of trouble," he said.

The traffic outside the stadium isn't the only concern for state officials. The traffic in the lines for the restrooms has been a puzzler, too.

With the addition of 5,000 seats, "We're going to have 5,000 more people needing to go to the bathroom," Hoffman said. "We've put in some extra facilities and we've gone through the stadium stopping leaks and most importantly, making sure all the toilets flush."

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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