Shops eyed near Yards New attraction would help pay for additional parking

Niketown considered

Stadium authority debating several other options

February 04, 1997|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Stadium Authority is exploring the addition of another attraction to Camden Yards -- possibly a retail and entertainment complex between the two stadiums -- as a way to finance new parking for the Ravens and Orioles.

The concept, still in its formative stages, calls for a multilevel parking garage. The first level or two would be occupied by retailers or a theme restaurant, such as Nike-town or Planet Hollywood.

Nike Inc., a shoemaker, has opened hybrid shoe store/sports museums in Chicago, New York and other cities called Niketown. They've become instant tourist destinations.

Stadium Authority Chairman John Moag visited Niketown last year in Chicago and was impressed with the possibilities for Camden Yards, he said. But he said the stadium authority is keeping an open mind about possible tenants for such a development and is far from negotiating with any.

The local architectural firm of RTKL Associates is looking into the feasibility of the project, said Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the stadium authority. The project was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the authority.

"It would all be part of having Camden Yards as a daylong destination," Hoffman said.

Camden Yards is a significant tourist attraction, even when the Orioles aren't playing. And more development is planned, beyond the addition of a $200 million football stadium for the Ravens, that will draw visitors.

The Civil War-era Camden Station is scheduled to be developed into the Babe Ruth Baseball Center, a museum that will house the history of baseball in Baltimore.

"There's no reason why the location can't be a good location," Hoffman said. "I think it's got potential."

Making imaginative use of the stadiums for spinoff development is a good idea, said Bob Minutoli, senior vice president of new business for the Rouse Co., developers of Harborplace, among other projects.

"I think if you've got these two stadiums over there with their distinct traffic patterns and combine that with the baseball museum and the people working over there, I think it may be possible to put something together," Minutoli said.

The challenge would be to find businesses that can thrive despite the seasonality of the foot traffic generated by the stadiums, he said.

"It's very important that cities capitalize on what's unique about them. I think it's great that they are thinking very broadly -- the realities of the marketplace will tell them what will or won't work," he said.

Hoffman said the stadium authority would avoid duplicating attractions at the Power Plant at the Inner Harbor.

Last month, the city approved a 75-year lease with Cordish Co. DTC to turn the vacant Power Plant into an upscale entertainment complex. Cordish is negotiating to bring a Hard Rock Cafe, Barnes & Noble superstore and Second City comedy club, among other tenants.

Blake Cordish, a vice president with Cordish, said his company would welcome additional attractions for the city.

"More is more in the entertainment industry, and the more good entertainment options you offer, the demand will grow to meet the supply," Cordish said.

But he also said the stadium authority would have a challenge drawing visitors to a site so far away from the Inner Harbor.

"You'd have to have a very strong destination attraction," Cordish said.

Hoffman said that the Camden Yards project would be designed to complement the planned baseball museum at Camden Station and attract rent-paying tenants and parking patrons to help cover the expense of building a parking deck. The teams get a portion of the parking revenue during games, and the stadium authority keeps revenue on other days.

Another idea being considered is developing a small hotel in the Camden Yards complex, Hoffman said.

Whatever is constructed, Hoffman said the stadium authority would strive to keep it from detracting from the architecture of the adjacent ballparks.

The stadium authority is required by its leases to provide a minimum number of parking spaces for the Orioles and Ravens. Construction of the Ravens stadium has consumed some Orioles parking, making it necessary to find more space.

The authority also is considering building an underground lot in the block north of the stadium, now occupied by parking lots, to meet its obligations to the Orioles. Moag said a park could be constructed at ground level.

The stadium authority recently has begun removing a strip of businesses on the southeastern edge of the site, and is still negotiating to buy the property now housing the Hammerjacks nightclub.

A plan discussed some months ago, to seek parking in the retail strip immediately west of the stadiums, now occupied by Staples Office Superstore and other tenants, has been abandoned at the request of the city, which prefers its current use as retail and light industry, Moag said.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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