Saturday, June 23, 2012

An All-Star Audition

The O's are on fire this year, with some fine performances that merit an All-Star nod.  Since it's that time of the year, we think it appropriate to remind those Great Deciders that the Orioles aren't alone strutting their stuff in 2012.  So is the City of Baltimore.  Just as some high-flying Birds deserve All-Star recognition, so does their hometown.

As mentioned earlier, Tim Richardson of Press Box has a story about the O's interest in hosting the 2016 All-Star Game. 

Despite staging a very successful event in 1993, Baltimore is perceived by some as lacking the infrastructure and accommodations necessary for the elaborate week-long celebration and FanFest.

Which is why the timing of last week's Sailabration -- commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 -- could not have been more perfect.

One of the biggest maritime festivals ever produced took place in and around Baltimore from June 12-19.  Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world came by.  They toured ships and learned from historic exhibits.  Many stayed for the fireworks bursting over the water and Blue Angels soaring over Fort McHenry.

They were able to drive or light rail to Camden Yards and shuttle to the attractions.  Over 121,000 took advantage of the free Charm City Circulator buses and water taxis that transported them between hotels, restaurants, museums, concerts, and other attractions.

Because Baltimore is so bicycle/pedestrian friendly, many chose to walk or pedal around the harbor and downtown.  Excellent signage, helpful volunteers, and social media alerts provided visitors with timely information about activities.

In fact, if Baltimore were auditioning for the role of All-Star host city, last week's Star Spangled Sailabration gave a show-stopping performance.  It demonstrated just how well our sports complex is incorporated into the rhythm of the historic seaport, how easy -- and safe -- it is to get around, and how much there is to do.

Because Camden Yards hosts many events which attract out-of-staters (including the soccer match coming up in a few weeks,) the Stadium Authority prepared some information to help these folks find a place to stay, determine how best to get here, and learn about the many dining/entertainment districts nearby.

As an All-Star host, Baltimore has even more to offer than in 1993.  There are 50,000 hotel rooms within 50 miles (or an hour's drive) of Camden Yards

Most are on public transportation routes or close to interstate highways with direct access to the complex.
The light rail that runs through the complex has been double-tracked and expanded since 1993.  It connects BWI airport and Penn Station with thousands of hotel rooms in between.  Intercity bus service is nearby, and commuter service to Washington DC is at Camden Station.

Since 1993, the Convention Center has doubled in size, and connected to a new luxury hotel overlooking Camden Yards. 

We also built M&T Bank Stadium, a short walk from the Warehouse down a tree-lined promenade. In addition to being one of the premiere facilities in the NFL, it's a popular venue for events and exhibits

All totalled, Camden Yards has about 1.5 million square feet of activity space within a four block radius.

Finally -- as the Star-Spangled Sailabration proved so well -- Baltimore has a wealth of entertainment and dining options in close proximity to the stadium complex (and many hotels.)  Using the Charm City Circulator maps, we identified them.

We can't claim that Camden Yards has inched any closer to the harbor in the 20 years since our last All-Star game, but it sure seems that way.  Since the Baltimore Grand Prix course encompassed both, it seemed we were almost connected.  (Particularly viewed at 180 mph.)

The Grand Prix is another example of a big (150,000+) multi-day event successfully staged in and around Camden Yards.  Others include Army-Navy football, NCAA lacrosse, and international soccer friendlies.

But within this magnificent setting is the dazzling gem that changed the way we enjoy the Major League baseball experience.  Oriole Park, the ballpark that brought the game back downtown, is even lovelier and more of an attraction than it was 20 years ago.  Much can be attributed to the way our neighborhood has grown up around us.  But ultimately, it is the way you feel when you're here.  Close to the game, close to the town, and part of the history. That's Oriole Park at Camden Yards --an All-Star for the ages.

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