From dirt to menu, park has new look

Bar codes for tickets, see-through panels also among changes for '99


Fans attending games at Oriole Park this season will see much of what they have come to expect, from retro finishes to the comforting, deep-green color scheme.

But they also are likely to spot a few changes made for the acclaimed stadium's eighth season. One will be obvious even to television viewers: The warning track and infield dirt have been dyed a reddish brown to match the warehouse.

Inside the park, new food carts have been added. Aramark, the Orioles' concessionaire, has replaced many of the wooden or wheeled carts on the Eutaw Street pavilion and elsewhere in the concourses with more permanent ones. The new look, reminiscent of a steel-sided diner, is sleeker and cleaner.

New items also have been added to the menus around the park: cheese fries, sno-balls and sausage marinara. Special dishes related to visiting teams will also be served, such as "grinders" when the Boston Red Sox come to town and deluxe nachos when the Texas Rangers are here.

Also, the Orioles have adopted a new, computerized ticket program. Bar codes similar to the hash marks read by scanners at most grocery stores are now on all tickets. Fans will swipe their tickets through a scanner at each turnstile to electronically cancel the ticket, instead of handing them to an usher for tearing.

The computerized system should cut down on counterfeit tickets and give the team data on crowd movement that will be useful in deploying stadium manpower and marketing. It may eventually be expanded to permit tickets to be used as debit cards for the purchase of concessions at the park.

After a long fight with its landlord, the Maryland Stadium Authority, over control of space on the first floor of the warehouse adjacent to the stadium, the Orioles have opened a specialty art gallery there. It features a wide range of sports-related art, with such items as a watercolor of Baltimore Colt Alan "The Horse" Ameche by Richard Marks selling for $3,025.

Fans at several spots around the seating bowl, especially those near the pedestrian portals in the upper decks, have complained of railings blocking their views. This year, clear plastic panels have replaced the horizontal bars under the railings in four locations around the park.

This is a test to see how fans like them and how the panels hold up. Some newer stadiums, such as Cleveland's football stadium, make wide use of the see-through railings, but officials elsewhere have been wary of the panels getting scratched and rendered opaque by cleaning.

Stadium authority executive director Bruce Hoffman said it is unlikely the entire park would be outfitted with the panels, which he said do not match the retro look of the building's architecture.

Said Roger B. Hayden, the Orioles' director of stadium operations, "It might be just a spot thing, where we might see what we can improve."

Among other changes for this year:

New, angular pebbles covering the ground in the outfield picnic area replace a smooth stone. The change should make walking easier. A concrete walkway also has been added here.

Last year's landscaping program, sponsored by Homestead Gardens, has been expanded. About 13,000 tulip bulbs have been planted, and hanging plants will be added when the weather warms.

The members-only Club Level, which was renovated last year, has gotten new art for this year. Different alcoves are themed, such as the "RBI Leaders" corner or "Home Run Hitters" area.

The upper-deck plaza off Camden Street, which had already been popular for group rentals, has been set off with additional landscaping and labeled the "Garden Terrace."

The piping hanging from the upper decks and visible to fans in the lower decks has a new, plastic coating to improve its appearance and energy efficiency.

The light towers have been rewired to avoid a short-circuit, such as the one that shut off a bank of lights and delayed a game last season.

Orioles offices in the warehouse also are being renovated.

Pub Date: 4/05/99

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