The Boss and the Boys of Summer in Baltimore on the same date. Does it get any better than that?
Friday is shaping up to be one of the busiest days downtown since before the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 100,000 residents, workers and fans planning to attend the Bruce Springsteen concert at the renovated CFG Bank Arena and the Orioles home opening game at Oriole Park, fun-seeking eventgoers have the potential to spill onto city sidewalks and snarl traffic.
But Baltimore boosters aren’t focusing on the irritations that can accompany large crowds. To them, the sight of a thronging downtown on a fine spring day is an indication of a much needed rebirth, not unlike the newly-planted boxes of pansies lining city streets.
“When I’m out and walking around, I get the sense that people are starting to come back downtown,” said Lauren Hamilton, chief marketing officer of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.
“I can feel it. Everyone is really excited.”
Mother Nature played a hand in orchestrating Friday’s crowds when she arranged for thunderstorms to pelt the city Thursday night, coinciding with what was supposed to be the Orioles home opener. The team swiftly postponed the game with the New York Yankees by one day and rescheduled the first pitch of the 2023 season to 3:05 p.m. Friday, when the high temperature is forecast to be a seasonal 63 degrees under cloudy skies.
Four-and-a-half hours after the baseball game starts and not quite three blocks away, Springsteen will take the stage for the inaugural concert in the renovated and renamed CFG Bank Arena (formerly known as the Royal Farms Arena) at 201 W. Baltimore St.
Camden Yards, which has a capacity of 45,971, is sold out. The CFG Bank Arena, which added seats during the renovation, has a capacity of 14,000. It too is sold out. Add to that the nearly 40,000 Baltimoreans living within one mile of downtown and some 60,000 workers in that same area, according to a March report released by the Partnership, and you get the solid potential for traffic bottlenecks and parking headaches to name just a few concerns.
Even though there’s likely to be a fair amount of overlap — some downtown residents will attend the concert, some downtown workers will take the day off to go to the game and some people who live downtown also work downtown — that still has the makings of quite a large party.
“Sixty-thousand people downtown is a really good day,” Hamilton said. “And that’s just for two events.”
Baltimore Police Department spokeswoman Freddie V. Talbert wrote in an email that there will be “an increased police presence” in downtown Baltimore on Friday and that additional officers will be deployed around Camden Yards.
In addition, several city streets will be closed Friday beginning at 1 p.m., including Eutaw Street between Pratt and Camden Streets and Camden Street from Howard to Russell Streets.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said having two marquee events on the same day could help bring the city together.
“It is a unique opportunity to connect with our community and create unforgettable memories,” Scott wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun. “The exciting times ahead are just the beginning of what promises to be a continued era of camaraderie and celebration in Baltimore.”
Jennifer Grondahl, the Orioles’ senior vice president of communications and community development, pointed out that fans with tickets to the concert and game can easily attend both events on Friday.
The recent innovation of a pitch clock to Major League Baseball games has greatly speeded up the pace of play, she said. Even if the game goes into extra innings, fans should have ample time to visit a nearby restaurant for dinner and then take their seats in the arena, which is located just over a quarter of a mile from the ballpark.
“I think it’s a stamina thing,” Grondahl said. “We think anything that brings people to downtown Baltimore is great. Bruce Springsteen has a huge following, and that is a win for everybody.”
As of late Thursday, ticket resellers had seats available for Friday’s game and concert at premium prices, although most appeared to have been listed before Mother Nature threw the Orioles a curve ball. There was no obvious sign that fans holding tickets to both events were trying to part with one of them.
Justin Dvorkin, a partner in the 206 Restaurant Group, which owns Pratt Street Ale House, said having a large base of customers come back downtown is a welcome challenge.
“We have huge staffing demands going into the opening of CFG Arena, the O’s opening day,” Dvorkin said. “We are really excited and optimistic about it [the arena renovation] — we’ve never seen that kind of activity out of that arena.
“I think for the next 5, 10, 15 years and beyond, it’s going to be a great thing.”
Downtown also is shaping up to be crowded Saturday — if not quite as crowded as Friday — when the O’s take the field for their second almost sold-out game against the Yankees, at 7:05 p.m. and The Eagles perform a nearly sold-out concert at the Bank Arena at 8 p.m. (Limited tickets were available for both, spokespersons said, though because the events overlap, most patrons likely will attend one or the other.)
Traffic also will taper off because many businesses closed early for the weekend in observance of Good Friday, and even more offices will be empty on Saturday.
Though the crowds late this week will be impressive, they are unlikely to break pre-pandemic records.
In 2018, for instance, an estimated 175,000 people attended the opening night of Light City Baltimore. In the past, Artscape, Baltimore’s annual outdoor arts festival, averaged a three-day attendance of about 350,000.
But Frank Remesch, CFG Bank Arena’s general manager, is confident that Baltimore’s downtown is on its way back up.
He pointed to the revitalized Lexington Market, which held its grand reopening earlier this year and is doing a brisk lunchtime business — and to his venue, which is having its ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday following a $250 million face-lift by the California-based developer Oak View Group.
Improvements at the arena include new seating and suites, better acoustics and a new facade. The venue expects to host about 130 events a year, Remesch said, from comedy shows to monster truck rallies, and promoters plan to more than double the annual slate of concerts to about 60.
“People are coming back downtown,” Remesch said. “We have 35 shows on sale, and approximately 10 are already sold out. This is going to spearhead development. This is what big cities do.
“It’s just a matter of time.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Amanda Yeager contributed to this article.