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Review of Oriole Park at Camden Yards: After All These Years, Still a Stunner

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  Winter 09 014

            On April 6, 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards became the new home of the Baltimore Orioles. It was the first of a wave of retro stadiums, new stadiums built to look like the old-school stadiums along the lines of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. It marked the (long overdue) death knell for the multi-purpose monstrosities such as Memorial, Veterans and Three Rivers Stadiums. Often imitated but never duplicated, it remains the touchstone on which all new ballparks are measured.

Several years later, they all still have a lot to live up to.

Here is the FANFARE rating for ORIOLE PARK AT CAMDEN YARDS:

Food & Beverage: 5 (out of 5)

Oriole Park gets a full 5 here for one word: Boog’s. If you are in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on game night, it is worth buying a cheap ticket just to gain admittance to get some Boog’s BBQ. It is sinful by any BBQ measure, but for a ballpark? Out of this world. Located behind the outfield, Eutaw Street (don’t worry, that will make sense when you get there) is where all of your food variety is. Along with Boog’s, there’s a pretty decent spot called the Warehouse Bar out there. Extremely friendly, it is a lot like your run of the mill neighborhood pub. There are lots of beer vendors there as well; good variety for beer is present all around the park, prices range from $6.50 to $7.50. For healthy options, try Pastimes Café, with a surprising array of healthy and vegetarian options, at great prices. Other than that stretch of Eutaw Street, and the stand called Charm City Seafood (where you can get your obligatory Baltimore crab cake and a huge pile of steamed shrimp, along with a soft pretzel covered in crab dip), the rest of the park is just your standard modern ballpark fare. If you try nothing else, please get some Boog’s. It’s so good, it’ll make you slap your mama.

 Winter 09 005

Atmosphere: 5

The picture below is from the last row of seats in the stadium. There is not a bad seat in the house. The stadium is clean and still has the new stadium feel.

 Winter 09 008

Full disclosure: I am not an Orioles fan, nor am I a fan of the city of Baltimore, frankly. In fact, after the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, I was no longer a baseball fan. I was done. They can keep their money and their game. Then came September 6, 1995. On that night, Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak. I don’t know why I was watching it, but I was, and Cal, being a humble guy was urged by his teammates to take a lap around the field. As he rounded the field at Oriole Park, tears streamed down my eyes. As far as I am concerned, Cal Ripken saved baseball that night. And it happened at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Neighborhood: 5

 Pickles

Space does not permit the description of the greatness of this area. The park is a 15 minute, leisurely stroll from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. But before you get there, you have to pass Pickles. If you are an Oriole fan, or like to be with hometown fans, or just like $1 bottles of beer, Pickles is the spot. Located stumbling distance from the park, it is the unofficial bar of the Orioles. The food is generic pub food, but, come on, $1 a beer, who cares about the food? There are a number (a large number, I stopped counting at 10) of bars also very close to the ballpark, including The Nest on Pratt Street, which is actually the official bar of the Orioles. It’s OK, but frankly, it wants to be Pickles when it grows up. It gets a mention only because it sells a drink called a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, which is hysterical if you are a fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, not so much if you aren’t.

 Winter 09 001

Fans: 5

Baltimore fans, as a rule, are intelligent and involved. They were a solid four points here, with my thinking that a five point score would require more of an edge. Then, in the third inning, a fan caught a foul ball and, while holding the ball up, the crowd booed him viciously because he was wearing a Yankees jersey. No big deal, you say?

It was a ten year old kid.

Five points.

Access: 5

This stadium is right off I-95, the main interstate on the East Coast. It is easy to find. Parking is plentiful and cheap. Since it is downtown, there is no shortage of garages. If you pay more than $10, you are getting ripped off. Okay, $12 at the most. There are plenty of clean bathrooms.

Return on Investment: 5

An absolutely great place to watch a ballgame, great prices, and lots of great deals. They have a section where for $40, you get a club level seat plus all the hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, ice cream, soda and lemonade you can eat and drink. They have lots of other deals, including the “Birdland Stimulus Package.” For details on them, see www.orioles.com.

Extra Points: 3

I can’t say enough about this stadium. The only way it could be better would be if they played National League baseball here. They brought the original foul poles from Memorial Stadium. Boog’s. Cal. Pickles. Great seating everywhere. And the seats are all the same color, instead of the multicolored mess you see in so many parks. The neighborhood is a perfect mix of old school ballyard and new, modern restaurants. Did I mention Boog’s?

FANFARE Total: 33 (out of 35)

 

There is a short list of stadiums I believe every fan needs to see before they die. Fenway. Wrigley. Chase Field (it has a POOL, come ON, and the cheapest beers in baseball). Tropicana Field (just kidding). Oriole Park at Camden Yards needs to be on that list. It is worth a trip to Charm City just to take in a game here. You will not be disappointed.

For this and other reviews as well as more information on the FANFARE rating system go to www.stadiumjourney.com.

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Written by CrawleyAndWatts

August 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

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