Some costs not escalating Moving stairs vetoed for upper-deck access

Stadium Watch

July 21, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

For all the conveniences it will offer fans, the new Ravens stadium downtown will lack something even ancient Memorial Stadium had: escalators serving the upper deck.

Team and state officials say the costly devices are dangerous and unreliable at the heights that would be required at the stadium.

Several of the new football stadiums opened in recent years have left them out, both because of cost and questions about their safety and reliability. Also, the prominence of premium club levels being built between the upper and lower decks make pass-through escalators difficult to design into the building.

Baltimore's new stadium will have escalators serving the club and skybox levels, just below the upper deck. These serve fewer numbers of patrons and do not go as high as would those serving the upper deck.

Ravens executive vice president James Bailey said the team and state had lengthy discussions on the issue and agreed to limit fans to the pedestrian ramps and stairs or, for those needing assistance, one of the stadium's eight public elevators.

"Operationally, we felt it was something that wasn't optimal," he said.

When the franchise was still the Cleveland Browns, before its move to Baltimore in 1996, it had bad luck with escalators at Cleveland Stadium. They frequently broke down and resulted in several injuries -- some serious -- over the years, Bailey said.

Years ago, the team stopped running them after games, because the post-game crush was too dangerous.

Baltimore has had its share of escalator tragedies, too. In 1964, a 14-year-old girl was killed and 46 children injured during a pileup on an escalator serving Memorial Stadium's upper deck. In 1994, 28 people were sent to the hospital after an overloaded escalator serving the upper deck at Oriole Park came to a sudden stop and lurched backwards.

Heidi Edwards, an architectural consultant for the Ravens, said: "There are huge liability issues with escalators going that high up. I don't think the technology is there to take them that high up."

The team is working out provisions for fans who can demonstrate a need to use the stadium's elevators.

Special tickets may be issued, and stadium personnel will be instructed to use common sense when confronted with a request, Edwards said. "Elevators are only for people who need special assistance," she said.

Besides the eight elevators available to the public, there will be another two dedicated to moving cargo and one each for the use of the media and coaches.

Dawn O'Malley, a spokeswoman for HOK Sports, the stadium's architects, said leaving out escalators was also done to save money. "It was purely an economic decision made by the client," she said.

Alice Hoffman, project manager of the stadium for the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the existence of two levels of skyboxes and a club level lounge between the upper and lower decks made an escalator difficult to install.

It would have had to run on the outside of the stadium, or holes would have had to be cut through the club level.

A spot check of other NFL teams found mixed feelings on escalators.

"You can move a lot more people faster with ramps," said Bob Moore, spokesman for the Kansas City Chiefs. That team's stadium, opened in 1972, has elevators but no escalators serving the upper deck.

Among the stadiums opened in the past few years, the Jacksonville Jaguars' facility has escalators that serve only the club level. St. Louis' Trans World Airlines Dome did include them, running up for the first half of the game and down for the second.

The Carolina Panthers left them out, both out of operational concern and design difficulties. "We just saw a lot of potential for problems," said Rick Skaar, operations manager for the club.

The Redskins' new stadium in Landover has no escalators to the upper deck because the cost of installing them was prohibitive, said spokesman Chris Helein.

Some older stadiums have them and report mostly good results. The New York Giants and Jets, sharing a well-regarded stadium that opened in 1976, have them.

"I don't recall any problems with them. There are times when they don't work and are shut down," said Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon.

The Miami Dolphins' 11-year-old Pro Player Stadium has escalators.

"There are days when they don't work as well as you would like them to, but I can't really say we've had any safety problems that I know about," said team spokesman Harvey Greene.

Texas Stadium, home of the Cowboys since 1971, has four escalators, said Glenn Kimberlin, director of stadium operations.

"We keep them maintained and keep them serviced and they are fine," he said.

Pub Date: 7/21/98

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