BALTIMORE GOT LUCKY on Camden Yards. The state, city and Orioles officials planning the project in the late '80s liked the downtown site and favored the flavor of old ballparks. But they had no idea the project would revolutionize sports facilities in America. They couldn't foresee it would become one of the city's favorite tourist attractions. They wouldn't have guessed that the B&O; warehouse beyond right field, which they decided to preserve on a whim, would generate $2.5 million in revenue.
The project has done all that, and more. But it would be a mistake of Ruthian proportions for city and state officials to sit back contented at what Camden Yards has wrought. Last winter's hard-fought battle to win financing for the Ravens' football stadium represents a midpoint, not the end, on maximizing the potential of this complex.
A recent letter from John A. Moag Jr., chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Orioles' owner Peter G. Angelos, Ravens' owner Art Modell and others is a wake-up call. How can this twin-stadium complex further enhance Baltimore and generate more business and revenue? Talk of developing a "Bicentennial" park between Camden Yards and the expanding Convention Center, and of making the Middle Branch area more of a waterfront attraction, south of the football site, is a good start.
Camden Yards planted the seed in the minds of many metropolitan regions about what these structures could accomplish. Detroit is energized over plans to move its Lions (football) and Tigers (baseball) to a $505 million twin-stadium complex downtown. In Philadelphia, a developer is drumming up support for a $500 million baseball-entertainment-shopping complex on the Delaware River. New York, Cincinnati and other cities are in the throes of similar dreaming, although they may get a cold shower courtesy of Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan's bill to end tax-exempt financing for stadiums.
If Baltimore and state officials fail to keep thinking creatively about the downtown sports complex, other cities that are actively integrating their projects with economic development may one day wistfully recall Camden Yards as "the place that started it all, before folks knew its potential."
Pub Date: 9/24/96