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Baltimore begins planning for Oriole Park overhaul

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

More open spaces, fewer seats and additional party decks are all on the table as the Baltimore Orioles begin to throw around ideas for the future of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The ballpark opened at the beginning of the 1992 season, and although there have been some improvements over the years, it’s basically the same retro ballpark it was 23 years ago. Oriole Park was an extremely influential ballpark as the first throwback design in the majors, and many other new MLB — and MiLB, for that matter — ballparks were designed to echo the Oriole Park look and feel.

So don’t expect anyone with the Orioles or the Maryland Stadium Authority to propose anything too dramatic with any potential renovations. Instead, look for the changes to follow other design innovations in Major League Baseball ballparks in recent years. Things like wider concourses, more group seating areas and more bar areas with a view of the onfield action will surely be considered. The one thing for sure: the Orioles know fans don’t spend nine innings in their seats any longer (just witness the popularity of standing room in right field!), and any design changes need to reflect that reality. From the Baltimore Sun:

The latest stadiums incorporate design elements — such as open concourses commanding views of the game — that Camden Yards lacks. Many also include stadium clubs for VIPs that offer prime, low-level field views.

There is no timetable for Camden Yards upgrades, and none are imminent. The club’s original stadium lease expires in 2021 and provides the Orioles an option to extend for five years….

Newer venues, such as Nationals Park in Washington and Marlins Park in Miami, have fewer seats than Camden Yards, which holds 45,971 — about 2,500 less than when it opened, but more areas where fans can congregate. In older stadiums, concourses are utilitarian areas designed simply to access rest rooms and concession stands. Although they attract some natural light, the Camden Yards’ concourses offer few glimpses of the field.

Don’t expect any huge changes: Oriole Park is still a wonderful ballpark. But losing some seats in favor of better views of the field is certainly a no-brainer.

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