Outside, in, park has shiny new look Orioles, authority spend $1.5 million to beautify, upgrade Camden Yards

March 31, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The bathrooms have a glossy, new sheen on the floor. The skyboxes have spiffy, new wallpaper and carpeting. And flower beds inside and around the park are bursting with color.

In one of the busiest off-seasons of maintenance since Oriole Park opened six years ago, the team and Maryland Stadium Authority have gone beyond the usual patching of cement and touching up of paint.

In all, $1.5 million was spent trying to keep the acclaimed facility looking like new.

One of the first things fans will notice is the new landscaping around and within. After years of doing it themselves, the Maryland Stadium Authority and Orioles struck a promotional deal with Homestead Gardens of Davidsonville for discounted landscaping.

"The charge to Homestead was to create visual candy," said Don Riddle, president of Homestead, one of the nation's biggest garden centers.

The company has planted about 5,000 pink pansies -- a color selected to complement the brick facade of the park -- along with thousands of tulips and other flowers that bloom early.

In a new round of plantings in May, Homestead will send in petunias, impatiens and other plants to keep the color up into the fall, when another planting will bring in chrysanthemums and other late bloomers, some displayed in hanging baskets.

"We're calling it 'The Gardens of Camden Yards,' " Riddle said.

In a mark of optimism for its new client, the company has begun planning for a special World Series planting.

Inside the stadium, the plain concrete floors in the public washrooms have been coated with an epoxy-based sealant. The new coating, gray with maroon flecks, makes for better traction and easier cleaning.

Also in the bathrooms: new soap dispensers. Oriole Park's washrooms were built with a system of soap dispensers that pumped soap out of central reservoirs in the walls. They never worked according to expectations. Last year, the stadium authority had them all cleaned and repaired.

"We thought we got it fixed, but by the end of the season we were back where we started," said Sherman B. Kerbel, the stadium authority's director of facilities management.

So this year they have all been replaced by a simpler system of self-contained plastic dispensers, provided free by the soap vendor, Kimberly-Clark.

Another addition is a few hundred feet away, under the Hamburg Street overpass. A new, $250,000 diesel generator will serve both as the emergency backup for the Ravens' stadium and an auxiliary source of power during times of peak demand at Oriole Park. By coming on when utility rates are high, the generators should cut the stadium's power bills.

Similarly, a system of underground chillers will make ice at night when electrical rates are low. The ice will be used -- via a system of pipes and fans -- to cool air in the stadium's enclosed areas during the day.

On the exclusive club level, where club-seat and skybox denizens gather for baked salmon and brie cheese, a more contemporary look has replaced the classic Camden-green decor. New carpeting, furniture, wallpaper and paint throughout highlights more earth tones.

Under its lease with the state, the team will pay for renovations inside the skyboxes, which will cost about $400,000 this time around. This work must be done every five years. The state is responsible for the common areas on the club level, which cost LTC about $600,000 to renovate.

There will be some changes in food this year. Boardwalk Fries will no longer be at the park. Menus will include some new items, including snowballs, fruit salads, grilled chicken salad, gourmet pizza and an emphasis on Tex-Mex dishes.

The stadium will participate this year in a Major League Baseball program of providing food relevant to the opposing team, something called, "A taste of the majors." Kosher hot dogs will be served during Yankees games, grinders when the Red Sox are in town and special nachos when the Rangers are here.

Prices have gone up on seven items, including bottled water, ice-cream cups and lemon chills, but remained level on the staples: beer, colas and hot dogs.

"I think the fans will see a significant, new level of quality," said Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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