The other battle at Camden Yards Parking dispute: Stadium Authority's plan makes more sense than the Orioles'.

October 04, 1997

IN THE MIDST of the Orioles' early playoff successes, a dispute rages on between the baseball club's management and the Maryland Stadium Authority over plans to add parking at Camden Yards. This fight between Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos and John A. Moag Jr., chairman of the stadium authority, is the proverbial skunk at the garden party, or in this case, the bullpen party.

Here are the competing ideas:

Plan A calls for a huge Niketown sporting-goods store/sports memorabilia museum or perhaps a theme restaurant incorporated into a 1,500-car garage between the stadiums on land the state already owns. The tenants would create jobs and help offset the $40 million cost of the parking deck.

Plan B calls for the state to acquire, by eminent domain, land now used by businesses across Russell Street from the stadiums, including a Staples office supply store that its manager says is profitable and employs 17 people. In place of those taxpaying businesses, the state would build a garage that would require thousands of season-ticket holders to cross six lanes of traffic to reach Camden Yards.

Plan A, the more creative, is favored by the stadium authority. NTC Plan B, which seems wasteful, is backed by the Orioles.

Ironically, the stadium authority and Orioles agree on the fundamental point, that more spaces are needed to replace the ones lost to the Ravens stadium. Unfortunately, egos have blotted out any common purpose.

Orioles attorney Alan M. Rifkin contends a Niketown-type venture would interfere with crowds arriving at and leaving baseball games -- a violation of the authority's contract with the Orioles. A commercial entity might just as well smooth the flow of traffic, since more fans would linger following a game. Mr. Rifkin alsocontends the structure would detract from Camden Yards' praised design, but that's not a given. His point is weakened further by the fact that the Orioles say they would support a garage there -- without a commercial tenant.

Indeed, if Niketown is the rub, the authority seems to have a moral, if not legal obligation, to work something out with Mr. Angelos and the Ravens, who seem more favorable toward this plan. The authority seeks to add a business that would both piggyback on and compete with its major clients, the sports teams.

How would the Rouse Co. react, for example, if the city said it wanted to build another Harborplace across the Pataspco? Mr. Moag quotes Jerry Jones, rascally owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who says fans have an insatiable desire for sports merchandise. But Economics 101 suggests if someone drops $50 at Niketown that's $50 less he will spend inside Oriole Park.

The two sides need to find a way to work out a compromise -- for the sake of the fans, Baltimore's tax base and the unfulfilled potential around Camden Yards. With the Orioles a game away from sweeping Seattle from the playoffs, maybe Mr. Angelos and Mr. Moag can bury the hatchet today while waving their brooms.

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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