The changes at Camden Yards in 2012 will extend beyond the roster and front office.
The Orioles have announced plans to "enhance the fan experience" at the ballpark. Here's the press release:
As part of a continued commitment to honor the proud history of the franchise, and in conjunction with efforts to improve the design aesthetic and functionality of the ballpark and the bullpen picnic grove in center field, the Orioles today announced plans to enhance the fan experience at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for 2012, highlighted by a newly renovated area to honor the greatest Orioles of all time inside the gates of the ballpark.
Larger than life sculptures of the six Orioles retired number and National Baseball Hall of Fame members - Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. - will be unveiled during the course of the 2012 season. The sculptures will be located in an improved bullpen picnic grove, which will receive significant upgrades and additional landscaping as part of a plan to turn the area into a ballpark oasis. As with the Orioles Hall of Fame plaques on Eutaw Street, this area will be renovated to allow fans access during non-gameday hours.
"We are excited and proud to honor the six greatest Orioles of all time," said Orioles Director of Communications Greg Bader. "These legends will now have a more visible presence inside the ballpark, just as they are honored with retired number statues outside the gates. As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it seems especially appropriate to pay tribute to the past while looking forward to a bright future for the Orioles."
The six sculptures will each be dedicated at a different Orioles home game during the 2012 season, with an announcement on the specific dates coming in January. "Having the players present for their individual celebrations at the ballpark is something we greatly look forward to," said Bader.
All six sculptures are being created by renowned Maryland sculptor Antonio Tobias "Toby" Mendez. Among his more than 30 publicly and privately commissioned sculptures, busts and reliefs over the past 25 years are works of Justice Thurgood Marshall at both the Maryland State House in Annapolis and BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport; pitcher Nolan Ryan at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX; coach Don Shula at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL; and "The Teammates" (Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio) at Fenway Park in Boston.
The six Orioles sculptures will be cast into bronze by Baltimore's New Arts Foundry, which also cast the statues of Babe Ruth and Johnny Unitas that are located outside Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium, respectively. The sculptures will range from seven to eight feet in scale and weigh between 600 and 1,500 pounds each.
Along with the installation of the sculptures, the Orioles have also planned additional upgrades to the main concourse, Eutaw Street, flag court and upper deck at Camden Yards for the 2012 season.
"Twenty years ago, Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened to universal praise for its beauty and urban setting," noted John Morton, Chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. "We applaud the Orioles' vision in helping us make the best even better and look forward to unveiling these enhancements on Opening Day. These new design concepts make the ballpark even more welcoming, attractive, and accessible throughout the year to the benefit of the entire downtown community."
More details about the additional ballpark upgrades follow.
In 2011, the Orioles and their concessionaire, Delaware North Sportservice, invested in an overhaul of the main concourse concessions. For 2012, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority are further improving the main concourse with new flooring and wall coverings. Following a trend in ballparks for a more finished look, the new flooring, which debuted last year in the lower concourse behind home plate, improves not only aesthetics but makes for easier cleaning and a less slippery surface when wet. Select Orioles design elements will be added to lower concourse walls and murals will be added to stairwells.
EUTAW STREET AND PICNIC AREA
The outfield areas of Eutaw Street and the bullpen picnic grove in center field are undergoing a major overhaul featuring the following changes in addition to the six new sculptures:
A new outfield overlook on top of the batter's eye wall in center field, featuring casual seating, a bar and deck seating. Any fan with a game ticket will be able to enjoy this unique vantage point to watch all or a portion of the game. This area was previously inaccessible to fans.
New entry concessions at the north end of Eutaw Street.
As a part of MSA's restoration of the B&O Warehouse brick work, a replica of the original canopy will be added to the Warehouse to shelter portable concessions and additional seating, as well as fans on Eutaw Street searching for shade or to escape inclement weather.
The out-of-town scoreboard on the right field wall will be modified to reduce the height of the wall and thus improve views of the game from the Flag Court and Eutaw Street. Food service and retail in the Warehouse will also be renovated to take advantage of this improved visual connection to the playing field.
UPPER DECK CONCESSIONS
All upper deck concessions will be upgraded with new food service equipment, allowing for an expanded menu and more freshly prepared options as well as a new look, similar to what was completed on the lower level prior to the 2011 season.