Problems at stadium are minor After rocky preseason, 'it went very smoothly'

September 02, 1996|By Kevin Langbaum and Kate Shatzkin

Football teams use the preseason to work out problems in preparation for opening day.

The same principle can be applied to stadiums.

Memorial Stadium underwent about $2 million in renovations, but flaws were apparent during the two preseason games there. By yesterday's opener, most of the problems had been solved.

"It went very smoothly," Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said. "We were able, through the first two preseason games, to work out all the kinks. There were very few problems at the ticket office. Most of the people were here at 12: 40 to see the [pre-game] ceremony. That was a good sign."

The problems caused by extra strain on the old plumbing system, which sprang leaks during the preseason games, were fixed. Despite the largest crowd ever at Memorial Stadium, there was only one report of a leak, and it turned out to be a spilled drink dripping over the edge of the mezzanine.

"The restrooms are still very good," said Eli Eisenberg, director of XTC technical systems for the Maryland Stadium Authority. "There were no water problems."

Fourteen more portable toilets were added behind the north end zone, lessening the strain on the plumbing system.

Things seemed to go relatively smoothly outside the stadium, as well. While traffic backups surrounded the stadium as game time neared, many fans came early and many took public transportation.

By 10: 30 a.m., brothers Chris and Jeff Willett were cheerfully hemmed into their parking space across from the stadium, their red Toyota truck surrounded by cars just inches away on every side.

The no-tailgating rule? You would never have known it from their smoking red grill, which already was hard at work on burgers and Italian sausage. Their odyssey had begun around 8: 30 a.m. when they left their Linthicum home to beat the traffic.

Not that they minded. "You pay a lot of money for tickets and PSLs [permanent seat licenses], so it should take all day," said Chris Willett.

Some came early to see former Colts like Johnny Unitas take the field in the pre-game ceremony. The lucky few with friends who live nearby cruised in later, their spaces reserved.

Mass Transit Administration spokeswoman Nanci Philips reported that 16,000 people took buses from park-and-ride lots to the opener, up about 3,000 from the last preseason game, and other fans took advantage of regular bus routes.

Police reported remarkably few problems at the game, with 38 ejections and one arrest -- for pickpocketing.

Pub Date: 9/02/96

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