Sunscreen will protect stadium's fair-weather fans


Imagine yourself seated in the upper deck of the new ballpark in a well-known downtown location. (Sorry, still no name at press time.)

You're sipping a cola drink and trying to keep the sun off your neck.

For an "I Love Tim Hulett" T-shirt, what part of this dream scenario is most unlikely?

It is the sun-off-the-neck thing, of course. Blistering rays will bake the new home field of the Baltimore Orioles, but not many of the fans in the upper deck will be similarly cooked, thanks to the new ballpark's sunscreen.

Among the comforts that await Orioles fans at the ballpark next season, this may be the most popular. At Memorial Stadium, seat holders in the upper deck always were the first to get suntans and, on a cloudless day, the first to suffer sunstrokes, mostly because the old stadium has no roof.

But that oversight has been corrected at the new ballpark, with a covering that should protect fans. They'll be safe from the hot sun of June, July and August. But this is a roof, not a dome. Sit in the upper deck on a rainy day, and you're likely to get drenched.

"The sun will not penetrate this material -- it will block out a lot for afternoon games. As for rain, that's a whole different story," said David Bieber, project manager for Progressive Services Inc., the company that is installing the ballpark's covering.

The sunscreen is much more than your average roof. It is made of 20-gauge galvanized steel. It is painted green on both sides and is guaranteed for 20 years not to chip, rust or be punctured by a foul ball.

Another distinction is the way it is delivered, in more pieces than your average jigsaw puzzle. In late June, the sunscreen arrived at the ballpark site in 1,530 rolled-up sheets. Each was hoisted above the ballpark by crane, lifted into place and rolled onto the roof. This is not a job that can be knocked off in an afternoon. Three months after the roof rolling began, the job is not completed. The final pieces are scheduled to be moved into place next month.

As workers install the sunscreen, work continues around the ballpark. The floor of the ballpark is beginning to look like a playing field. Work is under way on the $1.2 million Prescription Athletic Turf system, a network of pipes and drains that will run under the field and keep it dry. The system is about 50 percent installed. It should be finished by late October, and, shortly after that, the field will be sodded.

The roughly 47,000 seats also are being installed, although there aren't many you'd want to spend nine innings reclining in now. In all, about 20,000 green seat standards have been bolted into hTC place and roughly 10,000 seat backs. The next step is critical to comfort -- installing the actual rear-end part. All the seats are expected to be bolted in place by February.

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