It's Hilton 1, Orioles fans 0

August 24, 2008|By kevin.cowherd | kevin.cowherd,

Whenever things are going too well and I need a dose of misery to level off, I walk down to Camden Yards and stare at the big new hotel next door that is supposed to save this city.

Sometimes I have to check the urge to bang on the lobby glass and scream: "You heartless thugs, look what you did to my ballpark!"

But it's too late for that now. The thing is up and running - the ribbon-cutting was Friday, the swells are checking in - and all they'd do is call security and run me off.

Or they'd have me arrested, and then you have the whole issue of calling home for bail money, which never goes over well.

This new hotel is called the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel, and doesn't that just roll off the tongue?

It cost $301 million and has 757 guest rooms and tons of meeting rooms and ballrooms and a fancy skywalk that connects to the Convention Center, so the corporate types don't have to deal with the riff-raff out on the streets.

Sure, it's supposed to give the convention business a shot in the arm. But if you're a baseball fan sitting in Camden Yards and see that big drab building looming over the outfield wall, it's as visually appealing as Eastern European public housing.

Camden Yards is still the most perfect ballpark in all the land, but this new hotel destroys the wonderful view of the city skyline fans used to enjoy.

It blocks out the great Bromo Seltzer Tower, all shimmering blue at night, and the gold dome of the Bank of America building - the whole experience of going to a game is diminished because of it.

Sticking a hotel out there is like putting a Stuckey's on a rim of the Grand Canyon.

And God knows what we'll see going on in those hotel rooms that look out on the stadium.

Here's something the Hilton honchos should keep in mind: The Toronto Blue Jays play in the Rogers Centre, which used to be called Skydome and has a hotel attached to it.

When Skydome opened nearly 20 years ago, team officials were confronted with a unique problem.

On at least three different occasions, thousands of fans in the ballpark could see couples in the hotel rooms having sex. This is generally something you don't want in a sport that bills itself as family entertainment.

Now if you stay in that hotel, you have to sign something that says you won't engage in any lewd behavior that can be seen by the baseball fans.

Oh, you can close the drapes and engage in any kind of lewd behavior you want.

You can swing nude from the light fixtures and jump up and down on the bed and whack your partner with a broom all night long.

But you can't let the baseball fans see you.

Why, this is America's Pastime! Who would pay attention to the game if everyone was gazing up through high-powered binoculars at the randy couple thrashing about in room 610?

You don't think that sort of thing could happen with this new hotel of ours?

We have as many sickos and deviates as they have anywhere else, maybe more. Don't think we don't.

And even if you don't see anyone having sex in the hotel rooms, other stuff can happen in that new Hilton that might be a PR atom bomb.

How about some nutjob getting a room that overlooks the ballpark and unfurling a big banner from the window that says "Orioles S..." or "Yankees S..." or something classy like that? You don't think that can happen? After 10 or 12 beers, that begins to sound like a great idea to some people.

I get to 15 or 20 Oriole games every year, and I went to see them play the Red Sox the other night, just to remind myself of how blighted the skyline is now.

Now, you have to go all the way into right field on the lower deck, section 10, before you even get a glimpse of the Bromo Tower.

In section 12, I ran into Dennis Miles, 36, a big Orioles fan from Harrisburg, Pa., who seemed as stricken over the view as I was.

"I could see if there was something unique about it," Miles said. "But it's just a blah gray building. ... I used to like looking at the skyline. Now you're just going to see a hotel that you can't afford anyway."North of $259 for a room weeknight - yep, I'd be looking around for a Days Inn if it was me coming to town.

We sat there in silence for a moment, staring out at the hotel. I used to love when dusk came and the lights from all the tall buildings winked on and the skyline turned into this perfect symphony of glowing orbs.

Now it gets dark and the big Hilton H with the circle around it lights up and stares at you like a big red eyeball, and all that does is give you the creeps. It gives me the creeps, anyway.

On the other side of the stadium, I talked to Troy Mildrew, from California, Md., on the Western Shore.

Over here, in section 48, it felt like we were close enough to shake hands with anyone who leaned over the balcony in the new hotel.

"It's absolutely horrible," said Mildrew, staring up at the big red H. "It's made the skyline just like any other city skyline."

From here, I said, you might see some crazy stuff going on in those hotel rooms, even without binoculars.

Maybe even stuff with brooms. Mildrew nodded and said he'd rather have the great view back.

When the game was over, the Orioles having been solidly thrashed by the Red Sox, I walked past the hotel and thought again about smacking a meaty paw against the lobby glass, just to make a statement.

But it's too late for that. Hilton won. Oriole fans lost.

Business as usual in the big city.

Look for Kevin Cowherd's column Sunday in You and Monday in the news section.

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