Blackout at Camden Yards unlikely Dual feed should prevent Pimlico-type power outage

May 19, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Oriole Park at Camden Yards has had its share of electrical malfunctions over the years, but has a system in place that officials believe can prevent the sort of massive shutdown that bedeviled Pimlico Race Course during Saturday's Preakness.

The grandstand section of the racetrack lost power for several hours on Saturday, shutting down betting windows, lights and air-conditioning for thousands of patrons on the track's biggest day of the year.

The problem has been traced to a 15,000-kilowatt transformer behind the grandstand at the track, although Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and Pimlico are still investigating what caused the transformer to break down.

"The problem manifested itself at the transformer, but we don't know what caused that problem. That is what is being investigated," said BGE spokeswoman Darcel Guy. She said they hope to have a cause isolated by the end of the week.

But Cherise Seals, a BGE senior engineer responsible for the Camden Yards complex, said the electrical setup in place there makes a Pimlico-style power outage improbable.

"It is very unlikely that this would happen at Oriole Park. They are very well-protected," Seals said.

Among the chief differences: Camden Yards gets its power from two separate substations and can rapidly switch back and forth between them if one gives out.

Such a "dual feed" system probably would have prevented privately financed Pimlico's troubles, although no one will know for sure until the root cause of the outage is determined, Seals said.

Pimlico gets its electricity from two feeder lines, but both come from the same substation at Mount Washington.

That's not to say that Pimlico's power system is not up to the task, though. "The system they have in place is suitable for their business. It has redundancies built in," Guy said.

Oriole Park learned the virtues of having dual feeds the hard way, said Maryland Stadium Authority executive director Bruce Hoffman.

The stadium authority had a second power source installed at its expense after an incident on May 20, 1992, during its debut dTC season. A power surge disrupted power briefly at the stadium, causing the field lights to go dark for 15 minutes and stop play.

Now, if one of the power sources were to give out, the slack would be picked up by the other source instantaneously, Hoffman said.

"We wouldn't even know it," he said.

The twin stadium complex also has a network of backup generators powered by diesel fuel.

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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