Not far from where Johnny Unitas once went deep to Raymond Berry in front of cheering crowds at Memorial Stadium, visitors can now step into a considerably more tranquil patch of green space.
The famous stadium on East 33rd Street has been replaced by Stadium Place, an ambitious urban revitalization project that includes a YMCA, new housing and ThanksGiving Place, a recently opened meditation garden. The 1-acre plaza, the centerpiece of an affordable-housing development, is intended as a place of spiritual refuge.
Yesterday, religious leaders from across the city took advantage of the coming holiday to gather in the park and give thanks for what they called "Baltimore's Blessings."
"Too much that goes on in Baltimore are things that are wrong -- school fires, drug corners," said Susan Macfarlane, a Baltimore resident who suggested the park after visiting a similar garden in Dallas called Thanks-Giving Square. "But there's much that's good when you think about the museums, the bay and Harborplace, and all the kids that are doing the right things."
In time, Baltimore's ThanksGiving Place will have two cherry tree groves, bells sounded by keyboard-controlled hammers, wooden benches, ivy-covered colonnades and plaques etched with Memorial Stadium memories. For now, it features a blue-stone labyrinth in the middle of an open field.
The park, which will cost $650,000, is an amenity of the development, which also will offer senior housing. The labyrinth, the most distinguishing element of the garden, is about 65 feet in diameter, but the spiritual journey navigated by that those who walk it can be much longer.
"The idea is while walking the path, you kind of focus internally on yourself, your spirit, your needs and the things you're grateful for," said Mitchell Posner, executive director of Govans Ecumenical Development Corp., the developer of Stadium Place. "When you get to the center, your mind is clear. It's a very ancient symbol."
Posner envisions a peaceful setting in which people will navigate the labyrinth and meditate to the soothing tones of the bells.
Religious leaders say the meditation garden is part of a larger movement of mindfulness, the Eastern philosophy of attaining inner peace by living in the moment.
"There's a worldwide labyrinth movement," said the Rev. Jack Sharp, who attended yesterday's gathering. "It can be a place for stress reduction and meditation for individuals of whatever religion."
At Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, people often walk a labyrinth to relieve stress as relatives undergo surgery, Sharp said.
"What you're doing is moving from material thought to having someone identify themselves spiritually," Macfarlane said. "Prayer is really listening to see how thought is changing."