Camden Yards expansion gives Ruth Museum a place to grow

Renovations: Today's news conference will lend a peek at the progress being made at the museum's Camden Station location.

July 28, 2004|By Daniel Lyght | Daniel Lyght,SUN STAFF

Since Oriole Park opened in 1992, Camden Station had sat lifeless, mostly closed to the public. The building sitting east of the Eutaw Street entrance to Camden Yards was a shell harboring emptiness and decay.

That has been changing since December, however. Renovations on the building continue in preparation for the opening of Sports Legends at Camden Yards, a sports museum scheduled to have its ribbon cut in May 2005.

The official news conference announcing the name of the museum and its fund-raising campaign is scheduled for 10:30 this morning inside Camden Station with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele scheduled to speak and Sandy Unitas, widow of Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas, scheduled to attend.

The museum will house all sorts of Maryland sports archives and memorabilia - from the Orioles Hall of Fame to Maryland amateur baseball, and from the Colts to the Ravens. The site will be an expansion of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, which is not moving but leasing the bottom two floors of Camden Station from the Maryland Stadium Authority to create a more diverse and complete museum of Baltimore and Maryland sports history.

To attract fans, designers will use a more general approach for the museum.

"It will be presented in a way that will have national appeal," said Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

When completed, visitors will walk into the $16 million site believing it to be a real train station, including an "old-time train ticket counter." From there, visitors will have the option of following the designated route, which takes the sightseer to area baseball exhibits featuring Babe Ruth, the Orioles and the Negro leagues.

The Orioles will be prominently displayed. There will be a feature called "Nine Innings of Orioles Baseball," which will take the team from its birth to the present day, as well as a room dedicated to the Orioles' Hall of Fame. Designers wanted to be certain that a section of the museum was designated to the Negro leagues for educational purposes, according to Gibbons.

"It's a really important story for not only school kids but adults as well," Gibbons said. "We want to get into segregated America and what alleviated that. ... It will be a introduction into the whole notion of segregation and how it was overcome in sports."

Negro leagues exhibits will include the Baltimore Black Sox, Baltimore Elite Giants and a remake of a dilapidated hotel room Jackie Robinson and late Afro-American columnist Sam Lacy would have stayed in while on the road in the major leagues.

From baseball, fans will walk into sections featuring area college sports and other amateur sports. Interactive exhibits will be in place throughout these displays. One such feature will be a broadcast booth from which fans will be able to do their own play-by-play.

Large sections of the museum also will be dedicated to the Ravens and Colts. On site will be the Colts' Super Bowl V trophy, one of the reasons Gibbons says this museum will be a level above the rest.

"This is what makes us unique," Gibbons said. "We have the real deal."

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