Vendors, not gripes, in short supply No-shows leave fans frustrated and thirsty at all seating levels

August 30, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Bill Free, Edward Gunts and Mike Klingaman contributed to this article.

Joe Six-Pack has spoken. He said he wants more beer vendors at the Ravens' new stadium at Camden Yards.

At all three seating levels, an informal survey regarding the avail- ability of services before, during and after halftime elicited a common complaint: There weren't enough beer vendors circulating to keep fans in their seats and attentive to the action.

Sitting up in Section 521, Grafton Jackson already had a taste of the mountains, and the last view he wanted was another vendor hawking Coors.

"Fifty people are still waiting for the Bud man to come through," said Jackson, a trucker from Delta, Pa.

At the club level, retired steelworker Don Uttenreither couldn't get a waiter and sought sustenance at one of the lounges.

"We couldn't get a server," said Uttenreither, president of Ravens Roost No. 5 in Dundalk. "We couldn't even get a beer. I waved to a girl in the next section and she waved me off. I finally said, 'To hell with this. I'm dying of thirst.' "

The lament soaked down to the lower level. Rick Eck of Essex, frustrated in his search for refreshment on a hot August night, beat the halftime rush with several minutes remaining in the second quarter.

"I cannot get a beer in the stands," Eck said.

Buddies since they were schoolmates at Old Mill High in the mid-1980s, Mike Rogers and William Outlaw leaned against a wall during halftime and empathized.

Rogers said "the beer man never came up" to their section in the east end zone. Outlaw said: "You used to see vendors a lot more at Memorial Stadium. I don't know what the deal is, but I guess that's what the preseason is for."

For most, the game was less about watching football than checking out the city's $223 million theme park. Chuck Bonavita of Elkton and Karen Mahala spent the halftime two-minute warning in an ice cream queue that reached 18 bodies. Would Mahala do the same if it were a regular-season game, say against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday?

"No, I wouldn't do this for a game that meant something," Mahala said emphatically after waiting 10 minutes for her Carvel fix. "Getting sodas in the first quarter was worse than this. We probably waited 15 minutes to get them."

Tony Smith, a plant manager from Catonsville, said: "The only line I have a problem with is the [Ravens'] offensive line," but his halftime fare did not include that popular choice, ice cream. While lines at the Hunger Zones and other concessions never seemed unmanageable, there was always a wait for ice cream.

As the third quarter kicked in, there were still 24 people in line at the Carvel concession nearest sections 146 and 144. As two fans were being ejected behind them, none of the kids in line whined.

It was an unplanned stop for Sean Barry, 25, of Churchville. One of the escorts for nearly 100 children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County, Barry helped a 3-year-old named Kaenin.

"He told me he had to go to the bathroom," Barry said. "Then he suckered me into getting him an ice cream."

The pleasures are a little more sophisticated -- and expensive -- at the club level, where Mike Campitelli worried about some tricky doors.

"The doors from the bar area to the seats should swing both ways," said Campitelli, who owns a masonry company. "They only swing in. Most people are carrying things out, which makes it very difficult to handle the doors with your hands full. When the waiters are carrying stuff out to the seats, they have to wait until someone opens the doors for them."

Which brings the crucial question involving moving through the new stadium: Regarding the restrooms, how long did it take fans to, um, rest?

At the men's room outside Section 115, lines were still only one deep a few minutes into halftime, but even that was too much for one customer, who bellowed, "They could build 35,000 toilets, and it still wouldn't be enough."

Dick Watts, a salesman from Severna Park, said the wait was much worse in the upper level, and he came down to the lower level, where he visited with an old softball teammate. Tom Caulk, a contractor from Glen Burnie, said he waited several minutes to use the restroom at halftime. On his 47th birthday, he wasn't complaining.

"The restrooms are just like Memorial Stadium, crowded and hot," Caulk said. "There were four guys in front of me, but it wasn't that bad. This was the first professional football game I've been to in Baltimore since the Colts left, and I can't wait for opening day. This is a welcome addition to Baltimore."

Stadium review

The Ravens have played two preseason games at home, letting fans get an early look at what the new stadium is all about. Now, with the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week away, this section critiques various aspects -- from getting there, to tailgating, to watching the game. Ratings used are thumbs up, thumbs down and a combination of up and down.


Pub Date: 8/30/98

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