Power outage forces Camden Yards delay

Overheated BGE line spurs 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 over-heated, 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 3O 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. Stetka said it was premature at that time to begin speculating whether a postponement would be necessary.

"My understanding is BGE will continue working to fix the original source of the problem, and MSA is working to find out why the alternate source didn't work Stetka said.

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."

Last night also marked the debut telecast of Comcast SportsNet, which bought out Home Team Sports in February. It's hour-long pregame show, beginning at 6 p.m., was being broadcast live in the center field picnic area when host Chick Hernandez was notified of the problem. The telecast hadn't been affected because of the network's independent generator, which is located in the broadcast truck.

"I heard in my earpiece, 'Guys, there's a power outage,' so we went another 45 minutes," he said. "Everybody who tuned into the game caught us instead."

"It didn't affect us, but it did scare us a little," said cameraman Marc Dress. "We weren't sure if the game would go on."

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 an flounced until 10 p.m., and the teams played a day-night double header 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.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet (formerly HTS)/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Frank Castillo (10-5, 3.59 in 2000) vs. Orioles' Jason Johnson (1-10, 7.11 in 2000)

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