Ripken complex moves a step closer to completion

Baltimore & Region


What was a grassy hill just beyond right field during the Ripken World Series in August soon will be a 300-foot-long, 200-room Marriott hotel - a scale replica of the B&O Warehouse and a defining feature of the Cal Sr.'s Yard youth field.

A replica warehouse was always in the plans for Ripken's baseball complex outside Aberdeen, said Chris Flannery, Ripken Baseball's chief operating officer. But what would go in it was less clear.

Baltimore developer H&S Properties will build the hotel that will occupy the warehouse. Part of it will be branded as Marriott's Residence Inn and part as Courtyard by Marriott.

When completed, the complex, across the street from the minor league Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, will re-create the experience of playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for children from around the world. It will feature a brick facade on the stadium, a major-league scoreboard and the "warehouse" hotel, for which ground was broken yesterday.

"Can you imagine being 11, 12 years old again, and seeing the size of this building and knowing you're going to be playing ball there?" asked Bill Ripken.

Ripken, who was joined by his brother, retired Orioles All-Star Cal, and their mother, Vi, for the formal groundbreaking ceremony, called the hotel the "showpiece" of a virtual baseball city that will span 110 acres off Interstate 95 in Aberdeen.

In addition to Cal Sr.'s Yard, the development will feature Ripken Stadium, home of the single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds; a 16-screen multiplex movie theater; 168 luxury condos; and 130,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

"We already think it's the best facility around, but we like to say we're creating a `wow factor,' " Cal Ripken said of the warehouse replica.

Cal Sr.'s Yard, which was funded through donations to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, has been open since summer, when it hosted the Babe Ruth League world championships. The 12-and-younger tournament featured teams from 15 countries.

With warehouse hotel construction under way, the stadium is a step closer to an anticipated completion date of next summer.

The other components of the development - condos and office and retail space - were delayed by a lawsuit from an unsuccessful bidder and are expected to be completed by 2007.

"It's later than sooner, but it's going to be just great," Mayor Doug Wilson said.

"It's the best yard in baseball," Bill Ripken said. "Why not model your showpiece after the best park in the game?"

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