SBD/March 2, 2011/Facilities

Renovated Ed Smith Stadium A Hit In Orioles' Spring Training Debut

The $31.2M renovations to Ed Smith Stadium started in June of last year
The unveiling yesterday of the renovated Ed Smith Stadium, which “capped the Orioles' two-decade search for a long-term spring training home, was a rousing success, from a sellout crowd of 7,497 to long lines at the park's expanded concession offerings to a dominant performance by the home team,” according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore SUN. After 14 years at an “outdated and undersized facility in Fort Lauderdale, the Orioles signed a 30-year agreement with Sarasota before the start of last spring.” The pregame ceremony before yesterday's Rays-Orioles game “featured Sarasota city and county officials, members of the Orioles' brass and so many others responsible" for the $31.2M overhaul of the 22-year-old ballpark. Orioles VP/Planning & Development Janet Marie Smith, the “driving force behind the design and construction of Camden Yards who was brought back to the organization to lead the Ed Smith project, spent most of the afternoon walking around the stadium getting feedback from fans.” As fans passed through the entrance gate and “walked under a baseball bat chandelier from which the organization's championship pennants hung, they were handed a tropical flower called Bird of Paradise.” About 45 minutes before the first pitch, a “line at Cafe 54, named for the year the Orioles returned to Baltimore, extended to the door.” There also was “substantial traffic in the team store.” Orioles Owner Peter Angelos, who “hadn't attended a home spring training game in about three years, has been in Sarasota since Sunday.” He “spent considerable time Tuesday chatting with fans, taking pictures and signing autographs” (Baltimore SUN, 3/2). Angelos said, “I am delighted with the way the project has turned out. We had great expectations and I believe those expectations were lived up to.” He added, “We have a lovely ballpark in Baltimore, which is hailed as one of the top baseball parks in the country, and it looks like we might have a winner here also” (BRADENTON HERALD, 3/2). Orioles RF Nick Markakis: "The facility is pretty unbelievable, and we still have a lot to go with the locker room and everything else around it" (MLB.com, 3/1).

HERE TO STAY: Angelos “didn't play it coy when he was asked to predict the future” of Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, whose contract is set to expire at the end of this season. Angelos: "I think it's obvious. He's not going anywhere." In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck notes the setting of Ed Smith Stadium is “symbolic of what has happened throughout the organization during the painful rebuilding program that MacPhail instituted when he took over the baseball operation” in '07. The Orioles “used to have the worst spring training situation in the major leagues.” Now, the combination of the Ed Smith complex and “the dramatically upgraded minor league facility at Twin Lakes Park are as aesthetically pleasing and functional as any in baseball.” MacPhail “isn't directly responsible for that, but the organizational transformation that has occurred on his watch is analogous to the architectural renaissance that has taken place in Sarasota over the past year” (Baltimore SUN, 3/2).
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