SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2011/Facilities

Orioles' spring training home becomes a swan

Orioles
BALTIMORE ORIOLES
A $31.2 million renovation turned a ho-hum Ed Smith Stadium into a jewel.
The $31.2 million renovation of Ed Smith Stadium has transformed the Baltimore Orioles’ spring training facility from a dumpy ballpark into one of the jewels of the Grapefruit League.

The expansion project doubled the park’s size to 163,246 square feet, adding a second-story concourse with suites and an indoor lounge, new concession stands and rest rooms, a new Daktronics high-definition video board and 100 new HD televisions hung inside the facility.

A left-field pavilion with drink rails and picnic tables facing the action, four new elevators and an extension of the sunroof on the main concourse to increase shaded spaces add more modern comforts to the park, which opened in 1989.

But the most dramatic change is a new facade, a stucco design native to Florida that makes the structure unrecognizable to fans accustomed to the old exterior, Orioles spokesman Greg Bader said.

The Orioles, in their second season at Ed Smith Stadium after signing a 30-year lease with Sarasota County, offered their own touch to the project by rebranding the building with pieces of Camden Yards.

The park’s 6,500 fixed seats were recycled from Camden Yards’ upper deck and club levels. The Oriole bird weather vane perched atop a decorative tower came from Baltimore. Ashton Design, the firm producing the early 20th-century-look graphic displays for Camden Yards, replicated the same typeface for all signs at Ed Smith Stadium.

American Seating Co. produced the original seats for Camden Yards, bought them back from the Maryland Stadium Authority as part of a capital improvement project up north, and restored them for the Florida facility, said Janet Marie Smith, the Orioles’ vice president of planning and development. Each aisle seat has the same Baltimore Baseball Club logo that appeared when Camden Yards opened in 1992.

In a nod to the O’s history, the World Series Suites down the first-base line are numbered 66, 70 and 83, three numbers tied to the club’s world series championships. They can accommodate 20 to 80 people in three to six units depending on the size and number of groups. A fourth skybox is named the Home Plate Suite.

The suites’ flexibility reflects the shift in hospitality at the larger MLB parks. The traditional suite environment is “yesterday’s story,” Smith said.

There will be a pit barbecue stand similar to the one at Camden Yards named after former O’s first baseman Boog Powell, but the Sarasota location will not carry his name, Bader said.

Sarasota County is financing two-thirds of the $31.2 million in improvements, and the city is paying the balance. The Orioles have committed up to $4 million for cost overruns and enhancements, Smith said.

Sports architect David Schwarz was part of the design team.

The Orioles open their spring training season at home Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

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