Bubba Gump a done deal, but enough of Hollywood

This Just In...

July 20, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

ABOUT THE Bubba Gump business down at the Inner Harbor: A deal is a deal, it seems to me. If anyone should be faulted, it's the pushover Schmoke administration for granting the developer the Power Plant the right to build barges -- and apparently just about anything on them -- in the public waterway between Piers 3 and 4. Now the developer arrogantly sneers that he has every right to clutter up the waterfront with more theme development -- this one a restaurant fashioned after a fictional Louisiana shrimp boat from a movie. What's next? A Titanic replica half-submerged at the end of Pier 4? Bruce, the robotic shark from "Jaws," randomly terrorizing people in paddle boats?

God forbid we should actually have another restaurant themed after Maryland's maritime heritage and seafood industry.

Still, at least the Bubba Gump thing is supposed to look like a boat. It's not as if they want to build a restaurant with a "Godzilla" theme. (Then again, who's to stop them if they did? Mayor Spine?)

As for the National Aquarium's whine that the Bubba Gump restaurant, built on a barge, will clutter up "sight lines" and diminish its stature as a leading Inner Harbor institution, just remember this: The aquarium is as much a tourist attraction as anything else down there. It's a fantastic place for kids to learn about marine life, but there's a Disney aspect to it that no amount of science posturing can cloak.

Surprised at all this fuss about barges and new piers? We reported that aspect of the Power Plant redevelopment more than a year ago. From The Sun Jan. 8, 1997: "Two huge barges would be permanently docked on the west side of the building, facing the aquarium, to be used for entertainment and dining. A third barge would be docked on the east side, near the Columbus Center."

That aspect of the plan shifted. That's why the fuss. But had aquarium officials and the Power Plant developer worked all this out together -- the good neighbor thing to do -- we might not have this squabbling now.

Odd fact: It was only in May that David Pittenger, executive director of the aquarium, said development in the canal between Piers 3 and 4 -- the Hard Rock Cafe had built a big deck there -- would be a welcome addition to the night scene along the waterfront. "I believe this as well as Harborplace is going to create a more exciting evening activity," said Pittenger. "We are going to be open every night in July and August to take advantage."

Guess he wasn't expecting Bubba Gump and an 8,000 square-foot barge.

But it seems to me there's room for everyone down there -- Bubba Gump and a new pedestrian bridge for the aquarium. They ought to build the new bridge before tearing down the old one, then give this Hollywood on the Harbor business a rest.

Weird and wonderful

David Modell, son of the owner and executive vice president of the Ravens, describes a few bizarre coincidences about the team, its arrival from Cleveland in late 1995, the name it took from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, and its first two seasons in Baltimore.

1. Art Modell's middle name is Bertram. According to a Doubleday reference book called, "What To Name The Baby," Bertram derives from "old high German" for "brilliant raven." Other references have it as Old English for "glorious raven." The ancients believed the raven was a bird of great wisdom.

2. During a vacation after the team's first season in Baltimore, David Modell went abroad and learned that the raven master in the famous Tower of London is named David Cope. The vice president of marketing of the Baltimore Ravens is named David Cope.

3. While plumbing the depths of a huge box of personal photographs, David Modell discovered a 15-year-old snapshot of his wife, Olwen, on a college trip to London -- posing with raven master David Cope.

4. When the franchise moved here, a lot of things went into storage, including framed prints of football scenes that had hung in Modell offices in Cleveland. Eventually, four of the prints came out of storage and adorned the walls of a Ravens office here. "I'm sitting at a meeting," David Modell says, "and I notice for the first time that the colors in this print are all purple -- our purple -- and, somewhere in the painting, but very distinctive, are the reverse letters B and R."

5. To make a television commercial for Ravens ticket sales in 1996, the TBC Advertising and Public Relations firm borrowed an old headstone out of a storage area at Westminster Burial Ground, where Poe is interred. "In the TBC studio," says David Modell, "a gal there was cleaning off the headstone and soon we saw the name and the date. The date was exactly 200 years to the day that we were there, shooting the commercial."

6. While discussing the TBC commercial in a 24th-floor office on St. Paul Place, David Modell looked out of a large window and saw a dramatic cloud of black birds. "And they started flying right at the window and suddenly split into two groups and flew around either side of the building. Is that weird or what?"

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