COME THE final homestand of the Baltimore Orioles this season, if you aren't a season-ticket holder with a reserved parking pass your prospects of driving onto a stadium lot will be about the same as your chances of Davey Johnson wading into the stands to ask if you'd like to play shortstop in place of Cal Ripken. In other words: Zero.
As construction commences for a football stadium at Camden Yards, 2,000-plus parking spaces used by the public for baseball games will be lost. Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, has been negotiating to lease hundreds of spaces at businesses across Russell Street to fill some of the gap. That short-term solution has its own problems, though, with hundreds of fans daring to cross the busy parkway at game time.
With NFL football on its way downtown, a long-term solution to parking at Camden Yards demands new focus. The stadium authority and Orioles are at odds over this, which is unfortunate. The authority says it will meet its contractual obligation to the baseball team, and then some: It must provide 5,000 on-site spaces or pay a penalty. Mr. Hoffman says by next season it will. But the authority was the first to know that Art Modell was moving his football team from Cleveland and should have begun correcting this dilemma months ago.
Indeed, the vast surface lots at Camden Yards exist only because it took Baltimore longer than expected to land an NFL franchise. In reality, however, thousands of baseball fans have gotten used to parking on-site and like it. As with the football stadium design, the authority is a prisoner of its own success.
The authority is cool to the idea of a garage between the twin stadiums, and the mixed experiences folks have had at stadiums in other cities with parking decks leave us dubious, too. The solution may lie in acquiring some land nearby and helping fans reorient themselves to park elsewhere downtown or ride mass transit.
Unfamiliar visitors must be considered, too, since Camden Yards will continue to attract out-of-towners (yes, even Yankees fans) and Maryland's tourism industry depends on positive experiences. The authority must solve this problem with the teams, because transportation and parking are critical to the success of Baltimore's great and growing sports complex.
Pub Date: 8/10/96