“A downtown stadium like Camden Yards can have great synergies with downtown businesses and institutions and residents, and that has certainly proved to be the case with Camden Yards,” said Ronald Kreitner, executive director of the WestSide Renaissance in Baltimore, a consortium of local businesses. (Orioles owner Peter Angelos is a member.) “In many respects the synergy has exceeded some of our expectations.”
The Orioles’ success with Camden Yards spawned other downtown stadiums in Cleveland, San Francisco, Denver and elsewhere. Teams have found the synergy with downtown works in their favor as well.
For instance, in San Francisco, AT&T Park draws fans to a once industrial area now surrounded by shops, restaurants, and the latest outpost of Lucky Strike, a hip new chain of bowling alleys — or as they prefer to call themselves, a “gastro pub fun house.” Adding to Lucky Strike’s appeal in San Francisco: One of the owners of the local franchise is star Giants reliever Brian Wilson.
Lucky Strike will play up the connection, renaming its 12th lane as “Lane 38,” in honor of Wilson’s uniform number, and painting the pins in that lane Giants orange.
“We’ve got a fair amount of history in these kind of parks,” said Steven Foster, Lucky Strike founder and CEO, who opened his first venue a stone’s throw from Fenway Park, and who also has outlets near Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and near the Staples Center in Los Angeles (home to the NBA’s Lakers). “They’re great. You’ve got to be able to have a strong enough concept that has destination appeal when there aren’t home games, but when there are, it’s great to be here.”
But While Foster opens his outlets to take advantage of the ballparks’ crowds, plenty of other businesses that were established before the parks were built have adapted to the rush of traffic that game day brings.
“Small businesses, restaurants, bars, parking — all of these things have been able to reap the benefit of the patronage of the stadium as a part of the mix of being downtown, Baltimore’s Kreitner said. “It’s providing a leg of the stool that supports small business and enterprise… It means full tables, full parking, shops that can benefit from the traffic going by.”
One of the occasional beneficiaries is Hippodrome Hatters, a men’s hat shop in the neighborhood. While the ballpark sometimes scares off local customers because of the challenge of finding parking on game day, owner Lou Boulmetis says tourists and other baseball fans often discover his shop while on their way to the yard. “It’s six of one and a half-dozen of the other,” Boulmetis says. “My favorite fans are New York fans and Boston fans who come and patronize me. I know some of them on a first name basis.”
Boulmetis’ affinity for the Yankee and Red Sox invaders might not win him too many points with the Orioles’ orange-and-black-clad faithful, but he shrugs it off. “Money is green,” he says. And because parking is so pivotal to his success, the Oriole fans’ dream is Boulmetis’ nightmare: Baltimore in the World Series. “If the Orioles are in the playoffs, if that ever happens, that’ll hurt business,” he says. “There’ll be no parking places.”