Flavoring its surroundings Seats: Neighbors and motorists can't help but notice the purple splash coming from the Ravens' new home.

Stadium Watch

August 05, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Forget the fuss over state funding or whether Vinny got a fair shake. When people argue about the Ravens, one issue now outshines the rest: the color of the seats in the new stadium.

They are purple. Really, really purple.

"I actually think it's hideous," said Jeanette Nazarian, a Ridgely's Delight resident. She lives a few blocks from the new, $220 million stadium that opens Saturday for its first game.

A combination of 60,000 bright purple seats and open notches in the corners of the new stadium has turned it into a gurgling fountain of purple that spills out into the view of passing motorists, neighborhood residents -- even office workers downtown.

A delight, or an eyesore, depending on your tastes.

"I kind of like it. It's different," said Nancy Szimanski, a secretary who works in the Legg Mason building formerly known as the USF&G building at the corner of Pratt and Light Streets.

The stadium is in view of workers in the Inner Harbor building when they eat in the 17th floor cafeteria, she said. Some like it more than others, she said. But she is a football fan and finds it a refreshing splash of color in a downtown otherwise dominated with muted greens, tan concrete and red brick.

Not Nazarian. She said the purple is one of the first observations she hears from visitors to her home, and is the subject of much discussion among neighbors.

"The thing I object to is the inside of (Oriole Park at) Camden Yards is not orange," she said.

The color schemes had to do with the traditions of the two sports. Baseball, a pastoral sport of summer, opts for seats that are green.

The retro Oriole Park, for example, used a deep green consistent with old-time ballparks, like Chicago's Wrigley Field. Since then, other teams have followed that lead with new parks built in Phoenix, Cleveland, and Arlington, Texas.

Even in Denver, where the Rockies wear purple on their baseball uniforms, the fans sit in green seats.

"In baseball, the majority of the parks have been green," said Spence Benedict, a director of major accounts for American Seating, the Grand Rapid, Mich.-based seat maker for the Ravens, Orioles and many other teams.

But football has a different philosophy, and the National Football League has a well-aimed focus on the needs of television, said Jeff Spear, a project designer with HOK Sports Facilities Group in Kansas City, Mo., the architects of both stadiums at Camden Yards.

Football stadium seats mimic the teams' colors on the assumption that many fans will be wearing those colors, and empty seats will thus blend in and create the illusion of a full stadium for television audiences, said Spear.

"I like the color," he said.

The seats match the team's purple and black uniforms, which, in turn, were selected by NFL Properties in conjunction with team officials. Color forecasters in 1996 were predicting big things for purple, which is why it has also showed up in the uniforms of baseball expansion clubs in Denver and Phoenix in recent years.

It also played well with the namesake bird, which has an iridescent purple sheen to its black feathers. Edgar Allan Poe, too, invokes the shade in his poem, The Raven: "And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain "

"Football seems to be a little more adventuresome in terms of color," said American Seating's Benedict.

Technology, too, has contributed to the burst of color in gridirons around the country. New blends of plastics can be created that resist fading, freeing designers to use brighter colors, Benedict said. And football, which markets itself as a more forward-looking and less tradition-bound sport than baseball, has taken full advantage.

Hence the maroon and yellow seats at the Redskins' Landover stadium, the orange and red in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new place, a bright blue hue in the Carolina Panthers' lair in Charlotte, N.C., and the orange seats with black steel frames planned for the Cincinnati Bengals' prospective home.

Because the Ravens' seats are constructed with a new methodology for American Seating, Benedict said he often lugs one along with him on sales calls to other teams looking to buy chairs.

"They always say 'Why is it purple?' " Benedict said. "It's a bright color I didn't pick it."

The stadium holds 69,000 seats, which cost $4.7 million. The majority, about 60,000, are purple. Others, on the members-only "club level," are a muted gray.

But it's the purple expanse that draws the attention of people passing on the interstates, staring from the upper levels of Orioles Park, and looking up from surrounding neighborhoods.

Sharon Reuter can see the seats from the third-floor windows of her home.

"It's not the first color I would have chosen," said Reuter, who is president of the Ridgely's Delight Association Inc. "But I don't feel that strongly about it."

The community is more worried about parking, noise and crowd control, she said. But the color has been the subject of conversation since the seats began getting installed months ago.

"You definitely see those purple seats," she said.

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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