Ticket agent tempers NFL's slick image

This Just In...

December 12, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

I HAVE already said my farewells to Memorial Stadium, thanks. But Joey Amalfitano, who still bleeds Baltimore Colts blue, had to have tickets to the last game. "Just gotta be there," he says. So he drove in from the 'burbs to the Ravens ticket office on 33rd Street in Wednesday morning's cold drizzle.

"At 9 o'clock, no one was there, and that made me grumpy," Joey says. "But at 9:07, this frazzled but friendly lady drove up in a white Pontiac, said she'd been stuck in Beltway traffic. She hurried into the ticket office and sold me two $35 seats, seven seats apart, in the bleachers. I told her that, when I was a kid on Braddish Avenue, I used to sit there for Orioles games at 75 cents a ticket. She laughed and said, 'Yeah, and all the splinters you could take home.' Which is true, of course.

"I liked her a lot. It struck me funny - with so many millions at stake, with this football team from another city, with all the changes and everything being so impersonal in the big bad NFL, here was a true Baltimoron, one of us, selling tickets. She sat in the dark office, working her computer. Her hair was slightly unkempt, streaked with gray. She wore a Ravens jacket. A folksy, conversational, nice lady, one of us. ... It's the last game, man."

Sanitary engineering feat

As we look ahead to life after Memorial Stadium, let us consider something that weighs heavily on the minds of Baltimore football fans - toilets. Will there be enough of them at the new stadium? How have the architects and sanitary engineers prepared for what American sports facilities designers call the halftime flush?

The halftime flush is a genuine phenomenon in American football. And a daunting engineering challenge. We're talking about the generation of thousands of gallons of waste water through thousands of yards of plumbing within a relatively short but robust period of time. Think of it!

When large numbers of beer-consuming, soda-sipping, meat-eating human beings attend a three-hour football game, the vast majority wait until halftime to visit the public restrooms. (Studies show that baseball fans, by contrast, put light and gradual pressure on a sanitary sewer system, with maximum use coming at or near the end of a game.)

Of course, some football fans might sneak out between quarters; some might head for the facilities while the game is in progress. But most football fans wait till they hear the two-minute warning before they go.

That's what leads to the halftime flush.

Ga-oooosssshhhh!

So if you're an engineer working on the new Ravens stadium in Baltimore, you must ask questions: Can the city's existing plumbing take the pressure? And if not, what kind of sanitary sewer need be built?

Among those assigned the case were John d'Epagnier and David Wallace of Rummel, Klepper and Kahl, consulting engineers working out of a big, bright, busy office hard by the Jones Falls Expressway.

First, d'Epagnier and Wallace ran the numbers:

The new stadium will seat 68,500 human beings.

There will be 640 toilets and 373 urinals, putting Ravens stadium way ahead of woefully underurinalized - my word, not Webster's - Memorial Stadium and comparable, lavatory-wise, to 6-year-old Oriole Park.

Prime time for football stadium flushing lasts 45 minutes - 10 minutes before the official 20-minute halftime break, and 15 minutes after it.

The engineers figure the 45-minute halftime flush will generate 63,000 gallons of sewage. Think of it!

Next question: What's in the ground? And, can the old pipes handle this 45-minute flood?

The engineers discovered two main sanitary sewer pipes in the southern section of the Camden Yards complex. They'd been there for years - a 15-inch pipe running under Cross Street to the east of the stadium, and a 12-inch pipe under Warner Street to the south.

That, say d'Epagnier and Wallace, is plenty of plumbing for the job. Combined, the two pipes can handle a flow rate of more than 5 million gallons of sewage per day. (That's twice the flow rate generated at Memorial Stadium in a test conducted during the Ravens-Raiders game of Sept. 1, 1996.)

"Because the stadium site was formerly a mix of industrial and commercial uses," says d'Epagnier, "the existing receiving sewers have sufficient capacity and are being reused for the new stadium."

It's a beautiful thing, isn't it?

Ga-oooosssshhhh!

Mmmm, ciao chow

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