O's fans draw walk in parking game at Yard

Post-PSINet era brings more spots, at a distance

April 01, 1999|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Two years after football stadium construction displaced thousands of parking spaces for baseball fans and strained relations between the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, Oriole Park now features more parking spots than ever.

But many of them aren't as close or as convenient as they were before PSINet Stadium was built.

When the ballpark opens on Monday, there will be 4,200 spaces available on site. That is up from 3,940 last year but still below the 5,600 available before the Ravens' stadium went up on what had been an Orioles parking lot.

Is it enough? That depends on whom you ask.

The stadium authority thinks so, especially when spaces leased by the state and team from area landowners are considered. That brings total available parking at Oriole Park to 7,300, more than ever before.

Not all of those spaces will be available for day games because some are owned by companies that need them during business hours.

Even for day games, however, nearly 1,300 more spaces will be available this year than last. Many of the new spots are south of the football stadium.

"We're in the best shape we've ever been in," said stadium authority executive director Bruce Hoffman.

He said the stadium lots were not sold out for most games last year. Making a case for a new parking garage, such as the $40 million project across Russell Street that the Orioles pushed for a few years ago, would be hard given the success of last season, he said.

The state sees an advantage in forcing people to park downtown and walking a few blocks, both because it disperses traffic and encourages fans to spend their money on the way to the park, he said.

Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss said, "Parking is always going to be an issue for us because of the pressure it puts on the fans. We're always going to want to improve it and maximize it."

But, in contrast to the past two seasons, the Orioles do not view the situation as a crisis, he said.

"I think it could be improved upon, but I think there are some big steps that have been taken and we're going to continue to work" with the stadium authority, Foss said.

Both Foss and Hoffman participated in a news conference yesterday to discuss stadium transportation. Among the changes announced for this season: 16 new light rail cars have been added to the fleet, which should reduce congestion and speed service.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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