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.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Renovate, Reuse, Repurpose, Restore

A few years ago, MSA renovated the Bullpen Picnic area, adding these gorgeous red maples. 

The existing hardscape was improved with pervious brick pavers, establishing a surface that was easier to walk on and more absorbent of stormwater.

Lovely as this new area was, it was enhanced when the Garden of Greats was added this year.  Unfortunately, the pavers didn't work with the pedestals.

That would have meant a trip to the recycler for these very expensive, barely used pavers. Except they presented an opportunity to address a long-standing challenge on the other side of the campus (and save some serious $$$ in the process.) 

So the pavers were powerwashed, stacked, and shipped to M&T Bank Stadium for a new assignment in the hospitality village.

The area on the periphery of the stadium, dotted with purple tents and white picket fences on game days, is a popular option for groups attending Ravens games.

So popular that grass won't grow in some places.  This isn't from foot traffic alone.  Shade from maturing trees and poor drainage along Hamburg Street contribute to impossible growing conditions. 

Replacing sod every year was an expensive proposition.  And it didn't address the drainage or shade issues.  A permeable surface over a regraded, filtered base was needed.  So when the pavers became available, a creative solution was at hand.

Here you see LMC, our landscaping contractors, excavating the area to stabilize the drainage problem.  They apply a semi-permeable membrane and crushed stone as a base for the pavers.

Next, the pavers are tapped into place.  That's Bobby Brauns in the green shirt.  (Bobby was last seen installing the weather station on the south side with a cherry picker.  He's a true utility player.)

Because the pavers do not require mortar,  precipitation drains between them and is slowly absorbed instead of running off.
The team is really hustling to get this patio done.  Their goal is to have it in place before the Premier League soccer match on July 28th, followed by the Ravens Open Practice a week later on August 4th.

This represents a win on both sides of Camden Yards.  Our Bullpen Picnic pavers get a new home, and M&T Bank Stadium's hospitality village gets an attractive, environmentally sensitive upgrade that will last for years.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Revving Up the Warehouse

All systems are go.  The race to complete logistics for the Grand Prix of Baltimore is in high gear. Hard to imagine all this energy emanating from the corner suite one floor down, but we can sure feel the vibes. (Thankfully, not as intense as the jackhammers used on pit lane.)

Although the Andretti Sports Marketing Group has been here a few weeks, they wanted their offices decorated and organized before allowing the prying eyes from Bin 400 in for pictures.

This is the door to their suite in Warehouse A, featuring their handsome new logo and the Andretti corporate brand.  You can see the reception desk just inside, with a stunning picture of the winning Andretti team at the recent Milwaukee Indyfest. 

It's an appropriate selection, because in addition to having his marketing group promote the event into a resounding success, the Andretti racing team, led by winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, took two of three places on the podium.

They aspire to the same triumph in Baltimore.  And they're giving it their all.

Stephanie Thormann and Kristina Beese are seen here in the ticketing office.  But these two ladies have a great deal more to do, handling client services, reception duties, deliveries, and just about anything else that comes through the door.

They are both college students (actually Kristina just graduated) and are working here all summer.  More than a full time job, but both ladies are enjoying their experience in Baltimore.

You can't see their window, but they have a great view of rooftop deck at Oriole Park and are looking forward to game days (since they will be working some very long hours.)

Just inside the door (and in front of the kitchen where everyone has to pass) is the duty chart.  It's a giant "to do" list and assignment sheet, along with reminders of important times and dates.

In the middle is the race course itself.  It has some modifications from last year which will improve crowd flow and enjoyment of the race.  It will also improve the course for the drivers.  Among other things, the decelerating chicanes on Conway and Pratt Streets will be modified.

Up in the left corner, you can see the most important milestones.

It's less than three weeks until the track starts taking shape, a task that will probably take every bit of the 31 days before the cars hit the track.

Viewing the wonderful pictures (including some great vintage ones of Mario and Michael Andretti during their racing careers,) I was heartened to see there were several from last year's Grand Prix. 

The new promoters, while having their own plans for the 2012 event, greatly appreciate the dynamics that made the Baltimore race experience so positive for the teams.

On thing I had to ask (on behalf of all those Lamborghini lovers drooling in Lot C) was if the the car corrals were coming back.

The answer is a resounding YES!  The Le Mans folks are fully on board, and they will be having their paddock and car corrals between the two stadiums.  This was a huge hit last year for those fans who love high-performance rides they can relate to.  Or even own.

Many thanks to the gracious folks at Andretti who took the time to show me around.  Time is something they budget very carefully with so much to accomplish in the next 54 days.  But they have the talent and energy to get it all done and still make the winner's circle.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Those O's and Bohs !

It was about an hour before the gates opened on Opening Day.  I was strolling through the lower concourse of Oriole Park, admiring how well all the improvements and additions came together, when I was greeted by Baltimore's most famous cyclops.  Decked out in the new Oriole gear was Mr. Boh, enjoying a cold foamy draft and just waiting for the fans to arrive.

There are a number of nostalgic elements in this 20th season at Camden Yards.   A winning season (above .500 at the All-Star Break!!) has to top the list.  But I don't know of any other that resonates with the faithful quite like Mr. Boh and his commemorative can.

Recounting Nationial Bohemian's association with our city and particularly the O's would take a great deal more space that we have here.  Suffice to say, they were virtually synonymous during the early years after the team arrived.  Natty Boh is as Baltimore as Bromo.

The colorful commemorative 16 oz. can is ubiquitous on game days.  I saw it for the first time at Dempsey's, where cases were chilled on ice for Opening Day.  It was a particular favorite of the foreign visitors in port for the Sailabration -- many of whom picked them up while strolling Eutaw Street.

But it isn't just the novelty of the can and the connection to the home team.  I was amazed to learn National has developed a genuine following since its triumphant return to the ballpark gave it such local visibility.

Two recent stories in local papers have focused on the impact of the O's winning ways this year. Attendance is up, vendors are selling merchandise, and fans are wearing it all over town. 

However, the most accurate economic indicator (at least to this unscientific observer) is the action at the local watering holes.  That is where Natty Boh leads the league this year.

You'll notice that this group of pre-gaming fans at a nearby pub is not just enjoying the product but sporting the Boh gear as well. 

(Until I saw this, I didn't realize the natty Mr. Boh is a southpaw.  Just like Babe Ruth!  How poetic.)

This collection came from a trio of equally enthusiastic Boh fans who bequeathed me a seat after they departed for the 4:00 game.

Intrigued by a) the huge crowd, and b) the mountains of bright orange cans inside and outside the establishment, I asked about the phenomenom.  This is what I learned.

Business in the restaurant/bar just beyond center field has been booming this year.  Fans coming early, returning after the game, and even coming in during the game to watch the action on the TV (in air conditioned comfort.)

Fans are coming here to watch the game even if they don't go to the stadium.  If this vicarious viewing experience has a name, I don't know it. I did, however, see it first hand.  And yes, these secondaries dress for the occasion and blend right in with the paying fans.

Finally, those orange commemorative cans are selling just as well as they display.  Indeed, they are quite the rage, both inside and outside.  Part of it seems to be the reasonable price and jumbo size.  Another is the hipster appreciation for "local" suds. 

(No matter what the jingle says, it's no longer "brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay."  Not even in Maryland.  But since Mr. Boh is eternally ours, that makes it local.)

And speaking of Mr. Boh . . .  in addition to gracing beer cans, retro print ads, a repurposed brewery, and t-shirts, he has a new gig.  Mr. Boh is the official mascot of the Baltimore Bohemians soccer team.  His visage even graces their kit, giving it a distinctive flare.

So the O's as well as Bohs are big winners in this first half of the season.   They're providing a high tide that lifts a lot of boats (not to mention mugs) around our neighborhood.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Turbocharged Triple Threat

Congratulations to our new neighbor, Michael Andretti, for his team's third straight win on the IndyCar circuit behind Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay's impressive streak is amazing in itself, considering the tough competition in these competitions.  But his wins somewhat resemble a triathlon as they occurred in three different disciplines. 

The venerable Milwaukee course, in the middle of the Wisconsin State fairgrounds, is a traditional flat oval.

The newer Iowa course is a banked oval, requiring a different method of driving and passing.

Toronto, like Baltimore, is a street race. These are much different than the ovals, particularly when passing.

Hunter-Reay has another distinction -- he's the first American driver in six years to win three in a row.

So things are really looking up in the Andretti paddock as we count down to our own major production here in Baltimore.  Hard to believe, but construction on the race course will be starting in three weeks!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Like Baseball and Apple Pie

How's this for product placement?  What goes better with a ball park than a hot dog?

We get a lot of celebrity guests here in the Warehouse, but this has to be the most recognizable vehicle since the Budweiser Clydesdales cruised in with their van.

We don't know what the weinermobile was doing here, but it was parked for a few hours in the meter zone next to the MARC line. 

Maybe one of the Andrettis has a new ride.  We'll just have to wait and see.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night . . . . .

When the dastardly derecho struck Camden Yards late last Friday, fans had already safely departed.  But our friends and neighbors at Dempsey's were still cleaning up, so they had ringside seats to the wrath.

Many thanks to manager Crissie Evans and her staff for sharing the photos they snapped during and after the storm.

This is the sidewalk cafe outside Dempsey's.  Tables and umbrellas were the first to go.

Recycling bins and railings were not far behind.  At this point, the portable stands were still in place.

However, it was not long before they started moving too.  The horizonal hurricane packed winds of 70 mph in some places.  It wasn't clocked on Eutaw Street, but that corridor is breezy under the best conditions.

 The beer cart  sustained some injuries but fortunately beer wasn't one of them.  The Bird is still smiling, so we know this means no DL or rehab in Bowie. 

Beer was back in business by game time Saturday.

The sausage got a pretty good stuffing, though.  Not sure if it was from a collision with Flag Court or a gusty sucker punch.  Fortunately the fence was there or it could have landed on second base.

Despite the mayhem, MSA crews were able to have Oriole Park and its popular promenade back in operation in time for the Earl Weaver celebration Saturday afternoon.

Kudos to the best clean-up hitters in town!!