At Camden Yards, Work Is Never Done

From Associated Press

By definition, Janet Marie Smith's work with the Baltimore Orioles should be finished.

Hired in 1989 to oversee the construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Smith worked 18-hour days to carry out owner Eli Jacobs' dream of an old-fashioned, urban ballpark. Working in conjunction with Jacobs and team president Larry Lucchino, the task was completed by April 6--opening day.

That, as it turned out, was only the beginning of her role as vice president of planning and development.

"Though the stadium looks completed and we've been graced with a lot of favorable public reaction, I think it's like the car on the showroom floor--you've got to get the knocks and rattles out of it," she said. "To us, opening day was the beginning--not the end--of something. Our job now is to get it to operate properly."

If there was any doubt that all the kinks have not quite been worked out, that was erased on Tuesday night when a tier of lights went out in the middle of the Orioles' game against the Oakland Athletics. While that particular shortcoming was out of Smith's jurisdiction, it was nevertheless solid evidence that there is still some work to be done on the $106 million project.

In other words, Smith has found many things to keep her busy. Earlier this week she spent the entire day in a series of meetings, some of which focused on:

--Finding a way to stop the overflow of the whirlpool in the visitors' clubhouse.

--Thickening the hands on the scoreboard clock to make it easier to read.

--Working to make the ticket office accessable for a wheelchair-bound employee.

--Securing more furniture for each of the clubhouses and cupholders for some of the seats on the club level.

--Getting more electrical outlets near the playing field.

In addition, Smith is working toward getting more pay phones installed throughout the stadium and setting up tours of the facility when the team is out of town.

While these things are important, the 34-year-old Smith has at least found a little more free time for herself--sort of.

"Now I'm only putting in 10- to 12-hour days," she said. "There's not the same intensity, because when we were barrelling down to the finish line, the collective momentum to make that deadline was exhilarating.

"Now it's a little more tedious. You say, 'OK, we'll get it done by the next homestand or the one after that.' There's not the same sense of urgency."

Even if Smith eventually does take care of everything surrounding the ultimate completion of Oriole Park, her job still might not be over. Smith said the Orioles have asked her to help in the development of a suitable spring training site if the team can come up with a definite location.

"I'll stay until the job is complete," she said. "For me, the job is complete when I've done when the Orioles asked me to do."

Ultimately, that day will come.

"This is not a position that one would retire in, by any means," Smith said. "At some point, the job will be complete, and it will be time to do something else."

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