Ravens stadium upper deck a tall order

August 07, 1998|By John Eisenberg

Let's call it The Big Orchid for now because the Ravens' new stadium doesn't have an official name yet and that's a lot of purple coming out of the ground.

It's a splendid place, no doubt, as well it should be for what it cost. The lower bowl, club level and luxury boxes are almost on top of the field. The scoreboards and sound system are terrific. There's an industrial feel that seems right for football. All that purple? Cool.

But the upper deck? Well, not to tell you how to live your life or anything, but if your seats are up there, you'd better bring a Sherpa.

L You're not walking to your seat so much as scaling a summit.

The upper deck at the Big Orchid is so high that we really can't call it just the "upper" deck. That doesn't do it justice. So let's call it, say, Mount PSL.

It's so high that tickets should come with a good luck ribbon and a warning from the surgeon general.

So high that the Ravens could add a "health club" surcharge to the price of each ticket, given all the fitness work that will occur as fans trek to the summit.

Why, the upper deck at the Big Orchid rises so high that watching the game from there will be a challenge without high-intensity army binoculars.

Actually, the HOK architects who designed the place may have had that in mind as some form of a public service, given the Ravens' dismal record since moving from Cleveland.

But of course, you buy tickets because you like to watch, even if you can't stand to watch.

So if you're among the thousands of 500 Club members destined for Mount PSL when the stadium opens for business tomorrow night -- officially, the upper deck is the 500 seating level -- just remember to pack accordingly.

Binocs? Check. Ample rations for the climb? Check. Map? Check. Anti-vertigo medication? Check. Hand-held Nintendos for the kids to use when they get bored because they can't see the game as well as they do on TV? Check.

And by the way, once you're in your seat, you're advised not to look down at all, even after the game starts. Mount PSL is scalloped at a relatively steep angle, something along the lines of, say, an amusement park roller coaster pitching straight down into a pool of piranhas.

Not to frighten you.

The Ravens and HOK are none too fond of these criticisms, as you might imagine. They defend themselves with a flurry of numbers demonstrating that the upper decks at other new stadiums are just as high and steep. As if that makes it OK.

They're all too high and steep, that's the problem. And they're that way because team owners everywhere are united in their desperate desire for multiple levels of high-priced, freight-paying luxury boxes and club seats, pushing upper decks higher into the sky.

The Big Orchid fits right in, with its lower level, club level and

suite level situated below the upper deck.

In other words, let's not mistake this for anything other than what it is: Another sellout of the guy in the cheap seats.

Granted, there's nothing even close to a cheap seat at the Big ZTC Orchid. The average seat costs some $40, not including the average PSL price of $1,136. Not exactly blue-collar-friendly pricing.

A fair share of 500 Club members are relatively well-off fans who wanted to donate only most of their savings account to Art Modell's war kitty, as opposed to all of it.

Still, when the big-money seats push the cheap seats so high into the sky that they should come with a prescription plan, we're talking class warfare. A shame.

Ah, well. It's too late now. The Big Orchid has bloomed into reality. And again, it's a terrific place. Thumbs up all the way. Here's a toast to years of loud Sundays.

The upper deck is the only nay. And hey, there's a flip side to all these problems. A good side. The Ravens are searching for ways to use the stadium on days when there's no game, and the thrill-seeking nature of the upper deck provides several possibilities.

The Ravens could open a bungee-jumping, sky-diving and hang-gliding facility, for instance. Come to think of it, they could play host to the entire X Games if they wanted.

They also could open an Audubon Society petting zoo. You know, come up and mingle with birds in flight, that sort of thing.

As a last resort, they could do something really unusual with all those seats filled with fans who deserved more for having invested in the Ravens.

They could lower the prices.

Pub Date: 8/07/98

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