> > > RICK WADE
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Working in sports facility management is a dream job for IFMA Member Rick Wade. He serves as assistant stadium manager for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles. Wade and his team oversee a facility that completely changed the way of how modern ballparks are designed, used and renovated.
FMJ: Tell us about yourself and how you got into FM.
WADE: I am the assistant stadium manager for Oriole Park at Camden Yards (OPCY). Most people think of our complex as just the ballpark, but it is three separate buildings: the ballpark, the B&O Warehouse and Camden Station. The Maryland Stadium Authority maintains and operates all three as part of the Camden Yards Sports Complex on behalf of the State of Maryland. It also includes M&T Bank Stadium and all the surrounding parking lots. I have been in FM for almost 20 years, all in sports and entertainment facilities. After graduating from Ohio University with a sports management degree, I was unsure which career track I wanted to follow. As a former college athlete, I always enjoyed seeing and comparing the different types of facilities where we competed. Those experiences made me want to tackle operating a sports facility. During the winter of my senior year, I secured an internship in minor league baseball. I happened to be in the right place at the right time when my boss left for another opportunity and I was promoted to his position as the stadium operations manager. Following five seasons at that stadium, I was fortunate to work as the supervisor and manager at one of the country's top-grossing mid-sized arenas in Atlantic City. Immediately before the Stadium Authority, I was with the Baltimore Convention Center, a 1.2-million-square-foot convention center in the heart of the city's Inner Harbor. While I learned a lot and worked with great people in these multi-purpose facilities, I knew I wanted to land back at a stadium and in a sports environment.
FMJ: What is day-to-day life like at the ballpark?
WADE: Day-to-day life varies so much around Camden Yards, especially during baseball games and other special events, because each event has its own unique challenges. For example, during the baseball season, game days have varying start times, crowd attendance, suite utilization, and ballpark promotions — there is always something going on and potential problems to anticipate. It is not unusual for us to range from 10,000 all the way to sellout crowds over a seven-game homestand. One of the most challenging situations we face is transitioning from a well-attended night game that could last until after 11 p.m. to being ready again for a 12:35 p.m. start the next day. It takes outstanding coordination between our housekeeping crews, the Orioles, our AV shop, and the rest of the FM team to have everything ready to go like nothing happened a few hours before when the gates open. Additionally, most people do not realize our warehouse is a commercial office property with a wide range of tenants, from the Orioles’ front office to law and medical practices. That adds a bit of normalcy to our day, with standard business office hours, in contrast to the somewhat irregular rhythm of the ballpark.
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FMJ: Why is OPCY unique and what kind of unique challenges do you face managing OPCY?
WADE: The ballpark is unique from some other ballparks because it is a three-building campus. While other parks may have their team offices inside the stadium, we have the iconic B&O Warehouse. This building is where all the Orioles executive offices are located, along with the Maryland Stadium Authority offices, the MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) television network offices, law groups, medical space and other companies that utilize the space. It is a combined effort between the Stadium Authority, Orioles, and our service partners to keep up with all the unique demands of a multi-use complex. A few years ago, OPCY and the Warehouse both obtained LEED EB certifications, Warehouse LEED Silver and LEED Golf for Oriole Park, and we continue to work within the guidelines to maintain that certification.
FMJ: How much space do you manage and how is it used?
WADE: Camden Yards is a 44,970-seat baseball stadium. Our club level has undergone renovations over the years, so our suite total is around 65. In addition, the club level serves as an event function space on non-game days. The Warehouse is an eight-story brick building with roughly 450,000 square feet of commercial office space, but it also has some banquet and conference spaces on the upper levels. The third property on our complex is the historic Camden Station, an original B&O rail station building now used as contractor offices. It previously housed a local sports and entertainment museum.
FMJ: Thirty years ago, OPCY ushered in a renaissance of modern baseball parks. From an FM perspective, how has the ballpark been able to retain its charm and influence how organizations have redesigned their own home fields?
WADE: Camden Yards has maintained its distinct charm over the years because, on the outside, not much has changed. The brick and steel of the original architecture still set the tone for everything else in the ballpark, from the design of new signage to how upgrades will enhance the fan experience. When it was built in the early 1990s, Oriole Park at Camden Yards ushered in a new way of thinking about how stadiums are designed. It started a wave of construction of single-use stadium facilities, leaving the old multiple-purpose stadiums to be seen as outdated and eventually becoming almost extinct. Bringing the crowd closer to the field, incorporating public transportation, and integrating into the neighborhood were all new concepts back in the early 1990s but now are integral, mainstream ideas in the design of modern football or baseball stadiums.
FMJ: Tell us about your FM team.
WADE: Our FM team is made up of a diverse set of individuals, with some members who have been with OPCY since it opened in 1992. A handful of staff, including myself, have only been here a little while. For example, I started at the end of February. Our team has seven full-time trade and multi-trade members and five contractual members that report to the supervisor, the assistant stadium manager and the stadium manager. We also rely on a handful of on-call contractors who do more of the heavy lifting regarding repairs and new installations. It is a testament to our team’s skill and dedication to how much we accomplished to keep the facility running and looking great after 30 years and thousands of games and events.
FMJ: What are some FM challenges you face that are common across the FM industry?
WADE: With an aging facility there is original infrastructure that is also 30 years old. Making sure we are diligent in keeping our systems operating efficiently without exceeding the budget can be a challenge in a publicly owned building, especially as the Stadium Authority is self-funded through stadium operations. Another significant challenge is working our preventative maintenance program around our baseball and special event schedule. Those games and events make scheduling repairs and responding to failures even harder; if a water line develops a leak during a game, it is virtually impossible to bring out a lift or ladder depending on ceiling height, to find the leak and make the repair while you have 30,000 people in the park. You must be creative and work around things to get the situation under control without affecting the fan experience.
FMJ: What is the future for Oriole Park?
WADE: The future is bright for Oriole Park. The Orioles have been playing well this summer and are a fun group to watch. That means more fans are coming through the turnstiles on a nightly basis, which means good things for everyone involved with the stadium. Although larger crowds also mean more potential challenges from an FM perspective, I am okay with it knowing families and fans are enjoying the ballpark. There are even more exciting things a little further down the road. Over the next few years, we will implement plans for renovations and upgrades to the stadium that will continue to improve the fan experience. I cannot wait to see what the engineers and architects draw up and how it will only enhance the legacy of Oriole Park. On a personal level, this is the first time I have been a part of such an extensive capital improvement project, and I am eager to get started.
FMJ: What do you like best about what you do?
WADE: The best thing about working in the stadium, arena and convention facilities I have been in is that there is always something different going on. Every day differs from the last, making it exciting to get up and come to work each morning. A close second would be seeing the excitement of the fans who come to our facility and have a great time.