O's, stadium authority on speaking terms again But parking remains thorny issue for two sides

March 28, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The most remarkable feature of yesterday's Opening Day transportation news conference wasn't news of some new parking spaces, or the promotional campaign that was unveiled to encourage mass transit.

It was the fact that both the Orioles and Maryland Stadium Authority were represented.

A year ago at this time, with the two organizations openly feuding over everything from parking lots to hotels, the annual get-people-to-take-the-bus photo opportunity degenerated into dueling news conferences.

The Orioles skipped the one convened by the state and instead held their own to criticize the stadium authority. The team also sent its season-ticket holders letters accusing the state of ignoring the parking shortage.

But yesterday afternoon, under sunny skies at the Camden Yards light rail station, Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss and stadium authority executive director Bruce Hoffman stood side by side.

"I think it's a reflection of our mutual attempts to work together," Foss said, quickly adding, "There are still issues that both sides have that need to be addressed."

Said Hoffman: "I think everybody is tired of fighting."

It's not exactly a lovefest between the two organizations or their leaders. But in a sign of progress, stadium authority chairman John Moag called Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos a few weeks ago. The conversation was not friendly, but it was the first personal contact the men have had in years.

That's a long way from this time last year, when the relationship between the Orioles and its landlord sunk so low that the Orioles went to court and accused the state of printing counterfeit parking passes.

The rhetoric became so heated that Gov. Parris N. Glendening publicly urged both sides to settle down. Angelos replied with an angry note in which he termed the governor's comments "grossly inappropriate."

The parking-pass matter was resolved in arbitration earlier this year, and in recent weeks so has another point of contention: The Orioles have been allowed to rent space in the Camden Yards warehouse for a sports-themed art gallery this year.

The team had objected to the state's plans to rent the prime, ground-floor space to a medical firm. The team thought the space could be put to better, sports-oriented use and withheld its approval of the transaction.

The state won the right in arbitration to go ahead with its plans but opted to defer to the Orioles when the team agreed to rent the space itself.

"I think there's been some softening on the other side," Foss said of the warehouse issue.

But he was quick to say that no progress has been made on the long-term matter of increasing parking at the stadium.

The Orioles think the state ought to build a new parking deck across the street, at a site now occupied by a Staples office supply store, among other businesses. The state prefers other remedies, including underground parking adjacent to Oriole Park and perhaps an entertainment complex with parking between the two stadiums.

"I think additional steps need to be taken," Foss said.

Orioles fans will find about 1,000 more spaces available to them this Opening Day than last, due to the acquisition; and BTC demolition of Hammerjacks nightclub. By the end of July, another 250 to 300 will become available as equipment is removed from the football construction site.

But that will still leave them below what was available on site when Oriole Park opened. State and team officials say fans should leave early to get to games, stay late and use mass transit whenever possible.

Afterward, Hoffman agreed that the tensions between the team and agency have been reduced -- but haven't gone away. "It's not a lovefest. But it's two sides just working better together," he said.

Neither Moag nor Angelos attended yesterday's news conference. But Moag said he called the team owner a few weeks ago.

"I just indicated that I thought it was time that he and I start speaking and I hoped we could do it more often," Moag said.

He called it a "frank and hopefully productive conversation."

Angelos said the tension between the two sides is "essentially a disagreement over the parking situation."

"As far as I am concerned, our fans have parking problems that need to be addressed," Angelos said.

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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