Orioles fan Kevin Soderquist was looking for a place to park as the players were being introduced at the opening game yesterday. He was still looking when Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright threw out the first ball. And he was still searching when Joe Vitiello stepped up to the plate at the top of the second inning.
For hundreds of Orioles fans, Opening Day was complicated by more than a little frustration over the 2,600 parking spaces displaced by construction of the stadium for the Ravens. The Maryland Stadium Authority replaced many of those spaces through arrangements with nearby lots, but is still short about 1,000 spaces.
Even at that, as many as 100 available spaces went unused yesterday, said Ed Cline, deputy director of the authority. It may simply take time for people to get acquainted with the new lots, he said.
"We're pretty confident that people will adjust and learn where the best places are to park."
The beginning of that learning process yesterday left some fans irritated and late for the game. The competition for parking spaces was even more intense because the game fell on a weekday afternoon, when downtown workers use the garages.
Many lots near the stadium filled up by 10 a.m. -- five hours before the game began. Garages 10 blocks away were putting out the "FULL" signs by 1: 30.
While Soderquist searched futilely for space at garage after garage near Camden Yards, his friend Michael Mercer picked up their tickets and began the long wait for his friend's return.
"I'm sure he's running into problems," said Mercer, who stood patiently for 45 minutes with tickets in hand. "This is ridiculous. I could have been in the door."
Tom DeBoeser, of Fort Washington, was similarly frustrated.
"We drove around for an hour and everything's full -- there's no space," he said after trying more than a dozen garages. His group finally found a spot near the Lexington Market. "I knew parking was going to be tough, but I didn't think it would be this bad."
Wayne Retz of Arbutus was seething. A 29-game ticket-plan holder since 1987, he was parked more than a half-mile farther from the park than last season, and said it "stinks."
"Normally, I would park right here [in the B Lot near the stadium]. Now, they've stuck me down at Hammerjacks."
Retz said that his two children, ages 6 and 10, don't like to walk as far as they had to yesterday.
John McAuliffe of Bowie was inconvenienced by the new parking patterns.
"I've got a handicapped parking pass," said McAuliffe, who was walking with a cane, "but they wouldn't let me go where I ordinarily park. My son left me off as close as he could to the stadium, and I walked slow, real slow, to get here."
Traffic congestion, however, was no worse than usual for Opening Day, according to public works officials. And the Mass Transit Administration reported that 12,000 people -- almost 25 percent of those attending the game -- got there by either light rail, metro, park and ride or bus. The average number of riders to games last season was 8,000.
Police officers patrolling a South Baltimore neighborhood just a 10-minute walk from the ballpark said that nearly 100 people had stopped them to inquire about parking spaces in the hours before the game. Yet a $5 lot a block away on South Paca Street filled slowly, and was still accepting cars at 3: 30. "The places are there, and they're very secure. The people just don't want to pay," said officer Michael Wingler.
Minutes later, John Pieroni and two friends pulled into the South Paca lot, concluding a drive from Salisbury. With season tickets, Pieroni had permit parking, but said he was disoriented by the construction and decided to save time by pulling into the first lot he saw.
"We found a space in five minutes," he said.
Pub Date: 4/03/97