Disney, ESPN fine-tune design of Pier 4 complex Concept: The name has changed, but the ESPN Zone building will still light up the Inner Harbor with a flaming sports kebab.

Urban Landscape

January 01, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

WALT DISNEY CO. and ESPN haven't opened their first sports-theme dining and entertainment complex, but already they're fine-tuning the concept.

The name has been changed from ESPN Grill to ESPN Zone. A new logo is in the works. The interior design is undergoing revisions as well.

One element that will definitely stay, planners say, is a giant flaming "sports kebab" that will mark the entrance to the Inner Harbor attraction, which is scheduled to open this summer in the Pier 4 Power Plant.

"That's an integral part of the concept," said Scott Dickey, director of sales and marketing for Disney Regional Entertainment Inc., the Disney affiliate that is working on the project.

Planned by Disney and ESPN, an indirect Disney subsidiary, the Baltimore project will be the first ESPN Zone in the nation -- the prototype for a chain of attractions with sports themes.

It will occupy 36,000 square feet inside the northernmost of the three Power Plant buildings. Plans call for a 10,000-square-foot sports arena, a luxury tiered screening room, an ESPN studio restaurant and a souvenir shop.

Disney representatives say it will show visitors what it's like to be a professional athlete "in the zone" -- playing at the top of his or her game.

Interactive games will help visitors experience the feeling of batting four-for-four with two home runs, or scoring 45 points in one basketball game, or getting five birdies on the front nine in golf.

The name was changed, Dickey said, because planners decided ESPN Grill "wasn't fitting what the experience will be" and that ESPN Zone conveyed the concept better.

The simulated shish kebab is one of several graphic elements that developers plan for the exterior. According to drawings presented last month to Baltimore's Architectural Review Board, would be made of high-density Styrofoam and designed to look as if it's on fire.

But instead of meat on the skewer, the kebab will hold a series of balls -- including a basketball, football, soccer ball and baseball.

If constructed as planned, it would join Hard Rock Cafe's neon guitar as one of the most unusual objects on the Inner Harbor skyline.

The Cordish Co., which is converting the Power Plant to a $30 million entertainment center, is expected to turn ESPN Zone space over to Disney and ESPN on Monday so work on the interior can begin, Dickey said.

Plans for the interior are being developed by Disney's in-house designers, in collaboration with Dallas designer Charles Daboux.

Disney Regional Entertain- ment was established in 1996 to create "breakthrough entertainment concepts" for metropolitan and suburban markets in the United States and abroad.

In addition to ESPN Zone, concepts include DisneyQuest, 100,000-square-foot interactive theme parks scheduled to open in the summer at Walt Disney World in Florida and next year in Chicago, and Club Disney, a "family play site" open in Thousand vTC Oaks, Calif., with a second location opening this month in West Covina, Calif.

Disney wants to open Baltimore's ESPN Zone as early as possible next summer -- and definitely before the Fourth of July. It will accommodate at least 450 people at a time and create 225 jobs, Dickey said.

Two BGE gas holders are out of service

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s last two gas holders in South Baltimore have been taken out of service, meaning that the giant, rust-colored metal drums will no longer rise up and down as they did when filled with natural gas.

BGE officials announced more than a year ago that the holders would be taken off line by the end of 1997 because they are obsolete and that newer technology was more cost-efficient.

The latest plans call for one holder to be dismantled next year and one to be dismantled in 2000, according to BGE spokesman John Schropp. A third gas holder near Cold Spring Lane and the Jones Falls Expressway will come down in 2001, he said.

Football stadium will 'top off' Jan. 9

The Maryland Stadium Authority will hold a "topping off" ceremony at noon Jan. 9 to mark placement of the last piece of steel on the $220 million NFL football stadium under construction in Camden Yards.

The ceremony marks a milestone in the construction of the stadium, which is slightly ahead of schedule and due to open Aug. 8.

Pub Date: 1/01/98

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