Power outage forces delay of game

Overheated BGE line causes 43-minute wait

April 05, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The lack of power in the Orioles' lineup extended to Camden Yards last night, bringing a 43-minute delay before their game against the Boston Red Sox.

A Baltimore Gas & Electric dedicated feeder line that provides electrical power only to the ballpark overheated, stopping the flow of electricity and causing the sound system, lights and both scoreboards to go out while the Orioles were taking batting practice around 5:20 p.m.

Most of the B&O warehouse also was without power, which made the elevators stop operating. The concession area also was affected, with food being sold that already had been prepared.

A backup generator kicked in after about 15 seconds, which returned power to the clubhouses and sections of the warehouse.

Vicki Strittmater, a BGE spokeswoman, said crews responded immediately and switched over to alternate feeder lines to restore power.

The video board began working again at 7:10, five minutes past the game's scheduled starting time. The first pitch was thrown at 7:48 p.m.

Strittmater said the feeder line is contained in an above-ground vault box at Camden and Eutaw streets, just east of the ballpark. No area businesses, hotels or apartment buildings were affected by the outage, she said.

A city Fire Department dispatcher said firefighters were dispatched to the scene and set up a safety zone around the vault box as fans approached the stadium. There were no injuries.

Once the power was cut off, the Maryland Stadium Authority's automatic transfer feeder should have restored it within about 30 seconds, but that failed.

"BGE was on it quickly," said club spokesman Bill Stetka. "We're appreciative and thankful to both BGE and the MSA for their quick work in identifying the problem and correcting it."

Both teams and the umpires were alerted that the game wouldn't be starting on time as soon as the lights went out.

Roger Hayden, director of stadium operations, said the stadium authority will take down the entire power system after tonight's game "and check all the pieces." The Orioles begin a six-game road trip tomorrow night in Cleveland.

"We lost pieces of the power puzzle in the ballpark," Hayden said. "Once we isolated that's what was happening, we asked how we could go around the down line, and that's what we did."

It was the second power outage to disrupt a game at Camden Yards. On Aug. 14, 1997, a game between the Orioles and Seattle Mariners was postponed after a delay of 2 hours and 25 minutes because an electrical outage dimmed a bank of lights.

Angry fans waited while officials from the Orioles, Mariners, the umpires, the players association and the stadium authority debated whether the game could be played in the shadowy conditions. The postponement wasn't announced until 10 p.m., and the teams played a day-night doubleheader the next day.

A much more serious power outage occurred at the Preakness in May 1998. Unseasonable heat created a tremendous demand on the air-conditioning system at Pimlico, causing a failure in a transformer behind the aging grandstand.

The clubhouse and grandstand were plunged into darkness and stifling heat, and most betting machines went blank. A record crowd of 91,122 attended, but the blackout cost the track an estimated $2 million in lost bets.

Sun staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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