The future of Camden Yards Inner Harbor west?: Ideas for hotel, garage, retail suggest a 'critical mass' in the making.

March 08, 1997

WHEN BALTIMORE'S Inner Harbor was proposed a generation ago, skepticism raged. Proponents envisioned shops and restaurants where others could see only ratty, rotting wharves.

When talk arises now about a second "inner harbor," at Camden Yards between Oriole Park and the Ravens football stadium under construction, guffaws aren't so common. Anyone who can't see the potential in that area, bounded by the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and two stadiums that attract millions of people, is not looking hard enough.

Fortunately, state and city officials have zeroed in on the area's possibilities.

In their mind's eye, tourists will stay at a hotel between the stadiums and fans will park beneath it. They might dine at a Planet Hollywood on-site, or ogle a pair of Michael Jordan's size-13s at a "Niketown," the Nike Inc. superstore that has become a tourist attraction itself in Chicago and New York.

After a game, they might dine at a Tavern on the Green-like restaurant at a new park that may rise on an asphalt lot just beyond the historic train station that is being turned into a new Babe Ruth museum. Or maybe, someday, they'll stroll a boardwalk at the water's edge just beyond the football stadium.

None of this is carved in stone. None of it may happen. But it is a credit to the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Mass Transit Administration and the Schmoke administration that people are discussing, even dreaming, about such prospects. That is the next step in making Camden Yards more than two edifices on a sea of blacktop open just four hours a day on assorted dates on the calendar.

This should not diminish what these sports stadiums mean to Baltimore; it would acknowledge the vast potential of these people-magnets we have only partly tapped.

Revenue from a hotel or retailing would help pay for creating the park and garage. Parking is a serious concern for the Orioles. The garage proposal, along with adjacent properties being purchased, would address the space crunch that occurred at the end of last baseball season after ground was broken for the football stadium. The loss of precious car spaces will quickly become apparent to season-ticket holders when the Orioles' season begins April 1.

Baltimore's success at Oriole Park practically overnight caused America to re-think its view of stadiums as more than just big bowls where athletes clash. At Camden Yards, of all places, concepts to create businesses, jobs and revitalization downtown must be pursued.

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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