Stadium's neighbors less than thrilled Trash, noise, crowds mar their Sunday

September 08, 1998|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

Picking up his old shovel and a warm broom, 76-year-old William Jant hitched his suspenders to his green slacks, surveyed piles of trash on Hamburg Street, and shook his head at the Ravens' new football stadium, 300 yards away.

Almost every day since he retired from Amtrak a decade ago, Jant has swept the streets of his south city neighborhood, Sharp-Leadenhall, as a way of "staying in shape and feeling useful." Yesterday was his busiest sweep yet.

Jant usually fills one garbage can a day. By 2 p.m., he had enough beer bottles, plastic containers and other Raven refuse for three pails.

"I guess that's football fans for you," says Jant, who has lived here 56 years. "I can't remember seeing this much trash before. It makes you want to throw up your hands."

From Ridgely's Delight to Riverside Avenue, Pigtown to Patapsco Street, neighborhood leaders spent yesterday assessing the damage from the Ravens' first regular-season game Sunday afternoon. Despite anger at overcrowded streets, under-crowded churches and too much trash, most seemed resigned to life in the shadow of a 68,000-seat football stadium.

"It was horrendous. Trash was terrible. Parking was a joke," says Ann Neus, who owns a storage business in Camden-Carroll Industrial Park on the stadium's western flank. "But we may have to get used to it."

To be sure, some of the stadium's neighbors -- particularly football fans -- saw some good in the day. Jannie White, a Hamburg Street resident, beamed at the memory of friendly football fans praising her roses and her well-turned-out cats, Thomas and Tyra. Pigtowners cheered at the site of convertible Miatas and Mercedes parked on Washington Boulevard, a vote of confidence in an area long known as a prostitution corridor.

In Federal Hill, tavern owners happily counted up receipts from an unusually busy Sunday night, during which Ravens fans soaked their sorrows. More than 250 patrons, including Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jack Butler, turned Tom Chagouris' bar at the west end of Cross Street Market into a mosh pit.

"It was wild down here," says Chagouris, 42. "This was bigger than any Orioles game we've had, including playoffs."

But in brief interviews yesterday, two dozen residents agreed that, for them, the stadium has been more bomb than boon. Residents of the Otterbein Commons townhouse development put up "no smoking" style signs that showed a football with a line drawn through. Their message: fans keep out.

Most complaints focused on noise from the advertising planes and news helicopters that circled the stadium. In Ridgely's Delight, Bill Reuter and his house guests could not hold a conversation outside. "I'm half-tempted to call my city councilman and have him set up a no-fly zone," he said.

Parking presented other problems. Hearts of Pigtown president Doc Godwin complained that the city, while writing citations, was refusing to tow illegally parked cars. Dave Marshall, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, took a walk Sunday afternoon and counted 10 cars parked without the necessary permit. Not one had been ticketed.

"It's next to impossible for residents to find space to park," said Marshall. "We've been telling the city they need to issue tickets and tow."

Some church leaders blamed the shortage of parking spaces for the low attendance at Sunday services. The Rev. Eddie Wilson Jr., pastor at Leadenhall Baptist Church, complained from the pulpit about how hard it was to park his car. Some lay leaders said they may start future Sunday services earlier to avoid football crowds.

In the 800 block of S. Sharp St., members of Christ Spiritual Baptist Temple competed with members of Otterbein Swim Club for space. With cars outnumbering spaces three to one, both swimmers and worshipers gave up.

"It was madness," says White, who fought through football crowds to walk to Christ Spiritual Baptist Temple. "A lot of people at our church stayed in their houses."

In their defense, city Department of Public Works officials said that they had increased traffic and towing enforcement, removing 22 cars Sunday, compared with 20 at the first exhibition game. A force of 25 workers was deployed to pick up trash.

"People may have gotten away with illegal parking or trash this time," said spokesman Kurt Kocher. "But it's a learning process. They will not be missed next time."

Trash was heaviest in front of industrial businesses west of the stadium, but residents were angriest in Sharp-Leadenhall, a small, poor African-American neighborhood due east of the stadium.

Community leaders had hoped that the $223 million spent on the stadium might trickle down to them, and stadium contractors helped with improvements of Solo Gibbs Recreation Center. But otherwise, residents say they have reaped mostly bitterness.

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