Thursday, July 26, 2012

Field of Seams

You don't get to see this very often.  The field at M&T Bank Stadium getting watered. 

In fact, you may blink and wonder if indeed that's Nicole Sherry observing the action.  It is.  Nicole, the Orioles head groundskeeper for several years, came by for a visit and check out how the field was coming together.

(At this point, it's still a field.  It hasn't been transformed to a soccer pitch yet.)

The bluegrass (Nicole recognized it immediately) arrived in truckloads from its home in New Jersey.  Tuckahoe Turf Farms are the turf tycoons of the majors.  In fact, that's how Nicole knows both them and their bluegrass -- it's what she uses.

Tuckahoe must be awfully busy, because they are also furnishing Fenway with fescue for their soccer match.  Their infield needs patching for the pitch.  Not as big as this job, but some tricky angles to accommodate. 

Of course, preparing the pitch isn't the only preparation for the big match on Saturday.  Part of having the stadium ready is a good steam cleaning, which you can see here.    Everything should be sparkling when the rooters arrive.

With just two days left, it's time to groom the new field.  This is Martin Volz, a student in the Sports Turf Management program at Michigan State. 

(Yes, that's a discipline within agricultural science.  Remember, Nicole is an agronomist by education, too.  Nutrition, growth, and cultivation are just as important as grooming.)

Martin is sanding the seams.  That bucket contains very fine porous granuals that fill in the potholes and provide a medium for meshing the roots.

After the sanding, the turf will be watered again.  When it has dried, it will be mowed.  It has to be shorn to a specific length for regulation soccer, so they don't want it to grow back before the game.

And yes, the painted lines will have to be touched up after the shave.

Before leaving M&T Bank Stadium, we took a quick look at some of the other preparations for Saturday.

Here is the beautiful, recently completed patio deck in the corporate village.  The recycled brick is as sturdy as it is attractive and it is ready for one of the many groups attending the match. 

There is another patio just like this one closer to Russell Street.  We are eager to see how much better they work with the heavy traffic they have to tolerate on game day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fashion Flair, Local Lable

Perhaps it's the celestial glow, but there is an aura about the new Tottenham Hotspur kit.  Designed and produced by Under Armour, these threads could elevate the local performance wear specialists to the astral plane of professional outfitting. 

The unveiling of this new product (timed to coincide with the Spurs visit to M&T Bank Stadium) was somewhat a theatrical production, with team members modeling the kits and striking catwalk-like poses for the cameras.

Since they probably won't look this glamorous on the pitch Saturday, we'll preview this year's collection for you.

The home kit is traditional lily white, with navy blue lettering -- a classic look.  But it comes with Under Armour technology, which includes a base textile of razor-thin Under Armour HeatGear® stretch woven, capable of keeping the players lighter and drier than their opponents.

Kit shorts share the same HeatGear® stretch woven, which allows complete fluidity of motion for the players’ strike and stride with great stretch performance benefits.

To maximize this revolutionary fabric in action, the shirts are cut to Under Armour’s Fitted Fit  -- close to the body for optimal moisture management, breathability, and performance.

(This will be the rage throughout the Premier League.  Wick envy will prevail on the pitch.)

Here's how the Spurs will look on the road, resplendent in their navy blue(with complementing green goalie) kits.  Still calm and cool, with no moisture in sight. 

(Truly remarkable under those kleig lights.)

As winter approaches, Under Armour ColdGear® and Under Armour STORM fabrications will keep the players warm and dry with technical layering, 1/4 zips and jackets.

(Note the snazzy and color-coordinated Under Armour kicks.)

Naturally, the retail opportunities abound.  The new fashions were on sale at White Hart Lane within days of the official release in London.  They are now available online at the Tottenham store.

But the best part is they will be sold at M&T Bank Stadium Saturday, where you can see them perform on the pitch and witness firsthand how they soak up the sweat.

Whether you're cheering for the Spurs or Reds, be sure to lift a mug to Baltimore's own Under Armour, making their first foray into Barclay's Premier League and achieving yet another goal in professional sports partnerships.

White House, Green Goals

Last week, MSA and the Baltimore Orioles participated in a White House conference on sustainability in sports called “Greening the Games.”

The conference drew stadium operations officials from a broad spectrum of professional sports all over the country.  Seen here is Seattle Mariners VP of Ballpark Operations at Safeco Field, Scott Jenkins. 

Seattle is seen as a real vanguard in the "green sports" movement for the many ways they implement environmental practices into their everyday operations. Among their achievements is a recycling/composting rate for ballpark events that is now over 80%, among the highest in sports.

The program spotlighted efforts of professional sports teams and facilities to operate more sustainably. One panel featured Robert Nutting, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mike Richter, former New York Rangers goalie and partner in Environmental Capital Partners, and Mike Lynch, NASCAR Green Innovations.

As one would suspect, Portland is also committed to green practices, and consider themselves (like their team) Trail Blazers in the movement. Their Green Sports Alliance, along with the Trail Blazers themselves, were a part of the forum.  After the White House conference, the Green Sports Alliance was headed to London to participate in the environmental outreach efforts associated with the Olympics.

This April, the Trail Blazers unveiled a two-story "living wall" in the Rose Quarter.  It not only demonstrates the technology using plants to purify air, but also provides information to educate fans about Portland's ecodistrict program.

Matt Kastel and Jeff Provenzano represented Maryland Stadium Authority, and Alison McAvoy, Director of Event Operations, represented the Orioles at the conference.

While Camden Yards has improved dramatically in recycling and resource conservation in recent years, the ideas exchanged at the White House conference were invaluable to making further strides in stadium sustainability.

Perhaps the most important role sports can take in the effort is that of visibility and universal acceptance.  Forum organizers acknowlege that 60% of all Americans are sports fans and regularly follow their team(s).   In the past sports provided impetus to civil rights and opportunities for women via its connection with the public; it can do the same for environmental practices in leading by example.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Those Folks in Fluorescence

Note:  This is another in the "Safety First" series.
Here at Camden Yards, safety is a 24/7 priority -- 365 days of the year.  That is how often our campus is accessed by the public.

It isn't enough that we provide security.  It is of paramount concern that those who visit and work here know the facilities are safe and the premises are under patrol and surviellance at all times.

This can only be achieved through feedback, which is what we do with our tenants.  Every year, our partner Central Parking has a "thank you" coffee and doughnut event in Maryland Square.  Our monthly parkers and other tenants are invited to express their thoughts about our services in the survey taken at that time.

Last year, some of the respondents remarked that they didn't always feel the presence of our security force because they couldn't SEE them in their professional blue uniforms.  They simply blended in with the surroundings, or didn't have anything identifying them so others would realize they were there for protection.

It was an observation the MSA Security Department took very much to heart -- and immediately addressed.

Now Tenable Protective Services, seen here on patrol and manning the front desk and cameras, wear vivid iridescent shirts that can be seen the length of the Warehouse. 

This particular shade of lemon-lime glows like radioactive Gatorade, so there is no mistaking the security forces for pedestrians, loiterers, or tourists.

All well and good in the summer months, you may think, when shirts are visible.  But what about when they are covered by coats?

Yes, we thought of that too.  When the shirts are covered, their jackets have Day-glo orange stripes on them so they are still highly visible and identifiable as security personnel.

When you come to Camden Yards, even when it is very quiet and seemingly deserted, you'll see these officers on duty.  In fact, you can't miss them.  If we could black light the campus, it would look like a jar of lightning bugs.  Or a trip back to the 60's.

In any case, we want our guests to know they are being protected, and those fluorescent shades provide the visual assurance they need.

A Key Endorsement

It's an election year, so we'll be hearing a lot of endorsements from elected officials from now til November.

But the one printed in the Baltimore Sun this weekend, from Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, is a valentine to the Andretti marketing team who saved the historic "Milwaukee Mile" after it had been dropped from the 2012 IndyCar schedule.

In his "Letter to the Editor", Mayor Barrett (who is seen here beaming as Michael Andretti announces plans for a 2013 race in Milwaukee) assures Baltimore they are in good hands with the Andretti team promoting their Grand Prix.  He relates how they resurrected the Milwaukee event with very little lead time, and assures Baltimore supporters they can do the same here. 

"A successful race event provides immense civic pride and identity, in addition to showcasing your city to television viewers across the country and around the globe," Mayor Barrett observes.

"We've been there, Baltimore, and we can say you're in good hands with a legendary and tested team leading you to the starting line," he continues. "We know first-hand that with Michael Andretti and his team in your corner, the same success awaits Baltimore."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Racing On . . .

It was a big day at Camden Yards, with some welcome announcements coming about the Grand Prix of Baltimore and some very interesting special guests.

Race On and Andretti Sports Marketing held a press conference at Sports Legends this morning to tout ticket sales and event sponsors.

Camden Yards is fortunate to have Sports Legends, in the historic Camden Station, as a setting for press conferences and other sports-related events.  It's a real asset to our complex.

As you can see here, it is also provides a handsome setting to display the IndyCar.

Today, the good news from the Grand Prix of Baltimore team involved cash flow -- from big name sponsors and ticket sales.

Tim Mayer, General Manager of Grand Prix of Baltimore, announced that Dr. Pepper TEN (as in calories) has signed on as the official soft drink of the Grand Prix of Baltimore, and local grocery retailer Giant Food is the supermarket sponsor.  Both have signed multiyear contracts, and each will be involved in marketing campaigns in conjunction with the race.

Returning for the second year as fuel sponsor is regionally-based Sunoco.  As Mayer noted, motor sports originated as a means to test products under extreme conditions, so fuel sponsors have traditionally been among the most significant investors in racing.

(Once again, our neighbors in Ridgely's Delight enjoy great product placement, with their pumps and signage visible at Turn Ten.)

The press conference today was also the opportunity to recognize the American Le Mans Series as a major component of the racing weekend.

ALMS dominated the Camden Yards site last year, with their paddock and car corrals staged on Lots B and C.  Since Maryland has a large Corvette Club membership, they were well represented in the corrals.  That's Tommy Milner, of Corvette Racing, who recently won his class at Long Beach.  This very articulate young (26) man grew up in the Washington area with a racing pedigree.  His father, Tom Milner, has been both an owner and engineer in LeMans racing.  Tommy is excited to be coming back to Baltimore because he has so many friends in the area who came last year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Next, Mayer introduced Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Andretti driver who leads the IndyCar circuit after winning the last three races.

In addition to his accomplishments on the track, Hunter-Reay is actively involved in cancer research.  He is a supporter of the LiveStrong Foundation and his own Racing for Cancer, an education and awareness effort which focuses on childhood cancer.

Hunter-Reay, whose "28" car represents the 28 million people worldwide living with cancer, announced he was partnering with the Ulman Cancer Fund on an event prior to race weekend.  The Ulman Fund, based in Maryland, focuses on support services for young adults with cancer.

Like Milner, Hunter-Reay is American.  That puts them in the minority of their respective disciplines.  Both are proud to show that the country hosting most of these races can also produce the drivers that win them.

For IndyCar, this the first time since 2006 an American is leading the field in points.

One key objective stressed by the promoters of the Grand Prix of Baltimore is that race festivities be an asset to local businesses, and not a liability.  They are making fan access to restaurants outside the racing zone much easier.  They also have an ongoing PR campaign to inform the public that downtown Baltimore will be open for business during the weekend, with numerous routes in and out of the city available.

We'll be hearing much more from our neighbors downstairs in the coming weeks.  Without disclosing numbers, they indicated they are pleased with the three-day ticket sales and, as of today, are selling the single day tickets. 

Be sure to visit their newly revamped website for up to the moment information:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Another Andretti Win

Yes, this was a bye week on the IndyCar circuit, but that didn't prevent a major victory -- albeit off the track -- for the newest member of the Andretti team.

James Hinchcliffe, the cheeky and charismatic Canadian who replaced Danica Patrick in the GoDaddy car, began a grass roots campaign to usurp the cover girl from GoDaddy's homepage shortly thereafter.

This race was not conducted on an oval or street course.  It started on Twitter ("Hinch for Homepage") and was embraced by not only the Andretti team (who produced some campaign videos for his homepage) but eventually by GoDaddy as well.

In fact, a national ad campaign revolved around the rivalry between the young upstart and the glamorous face of those fetching Super Bowl ads.

While this may seem like a somewhat frivolous diversion from the high stakes world of professional motorsports, consider that GoDaddy, the Internet domain giant, has one of the top-visited websites in the world.  So what started out as essentially a prank became a full-blown campaign for supremacy in the IndyCar vs. NASCAR ranks.

Of course, no one knows who was keeping score or even if such things are measured.  But in the quest for eyeballs, GoDaddy was clearly a winner.

As for the irrepressible Hinchcliffe (seen here in various campaign appearances) he was rewarded with an unannounced appearance on the GoDaddy homepage last week.  The company said they were impressed with his drive and passion.  (They probably also appreciated the additional traffic his quixotic efforts drove to their site.)

James Hinchcliffe is one of those faces we look forward to seeing here Labor Day weekend.  Despite getting swallowed by a pothole in Detroit and losing an engine in Toronto, the 2011 Rookie of the Year is having a good season with two podium finishes.

He's already proven to be a popular addition to the circuit and an asset to the Andretti team.

And no one in the league can catch him on Twitter.