By Barrett Neale
When Janet Marie Smith became the Orioles' vice president for planning and development in 1989, she thought Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be the only ballpark she designed.
|Ed Smith Stadium (Courtesy of Craig Landefeld)|
Instead, she has spent the past two decades working on stadiums across the country. She left the Orioles in 1994 after her work at Camden Yards was complete, and has since worked for the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox.
Smith returned to the Orioles in September 2009 because the team was moving its spring training home from Fort Lauderdale Stadium to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., and wanted to make renovations to the new facility. The Birds have already spent one season in Sarasota, and Orioles director of communications Greg Bader said it exceeded their expectations.
"We had heard a lot about Sarasota being a fantastic spring training community," Bader said. "They actually are the longest-serving community of spring training that's been uninterrupted since the 1920s, so they know the value and benefits of having a team. … We've worked very hard to make sure we have a year-round presence in Sarasota. It's not just the players and staff coming in for six weeks in February and playing the games and then getting out of town. This is about building a relationship between our area, the mid-Atlantic region, and Sarasota County."
Meanwhile, Smith has been working with David Schwarz Architects, based in Washington, D.C., and Hoyt Architects, based in Sarasota, to ensure the new Ed Smith Stadium will reflect both the mid-Atlantic origins of the Orioles and the Floridian location in which the stadium resides.
"There will be more orange and black and Oriole birds on this facility before it's over with," Smith said on "Inside PressBox." "There'll be no mistaking that it's our spring training home. It's been beautifully designed. ... David Schwarz, the architect that worked with the local company of Hoyt Architects, really worked hard to develop something that had a real Floridian character."
During their first season in Sarasota, the Orioles set a team spring training attendance record, when more than 100,000 fans attended their 14 home games. About 1,500 seats are being brought in from Camden Yards to increase the ballpark's capacity to 9,000.
"I think our baseball team is just thrilled to be in Sarasota," Smith said. "When Peter Angelos picked this, he said it was a great place for baseball and it was a great place for our fans. [He] couldn't be more right. Mr. Angelos knew then that being this close to other teams and having our fans have all the amenities that are available to Sarasota would be fabulous."
Additions to the ballpark will include new concessions and restrooms on the second floor, a picnic area in left field and a new bullpen in right field.
Between Ed Smith Stadium and Twin Lakes Park, the team's minor league facility that is also undergoing some modifications, the Orioles have nearly 89 acres of space with 10 fields for their major league team and minor league affiliates to use.
One of those fields will now be made of Astroturf, Smith said, because Andy MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations, thought it would help the team prepare for trips to the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field and the Toronto Blue Jays' Rogers Centre, both of which boast synthetic turf.
A suggestion by Orioles manager Buck Showalter caused another field to be changed. He took a tour of the facility in September and asked architects to adjust the dimensions of one of the practice fields so it would conform to the specifications of Camden Yards.
Construction on the stadium began June 3, 2010, and despite some snags, construction is still on pace to be completed before players report to spring training Feb. 14, Bader said. The Orioles start their spring schedule with a road trip to play the Pittsburgh Pirates Feb. 28, and host Tampa Bay for the opener at Ed Smith Stadium March 1, when fans can see the full effect of Smith's work.
"Her involvement has been a wonderful addition," Bader said. "I think fans will certainly see the influences she has in terms of putting nice touches, historical touches on the ballpark that really reflect the community in which it's being placed, and at the same time, the vision of Peter Angelos on the project itself.
"This will be a building that fits in so well to the landscape and has such a nice cultural appeal in addition to a baseball appeal. I think both of those influences are critical to the success of this project."
Issue 157: January 2011