As Janet Marie Smith began to undertake the task ahead of her, a multitude of potential concerns were immediately apparent. In planning Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the throwback design was unique. So, too, was the physical location of the new stadium.

But what really stuck in Smith’s mind was how long — or, in this case, short — Memorial Stadium stood before it fell out of fashion.

“The thing that haunted me the most was that Memorial Stadium I think at the time was maybe 34 years old,” said Smith, who served as the Orioles’ vice president of planning and development from 1989 to 1994. “My feeling about buildings is they should last. They should last a century. They are built to last a century, structurally.”

The challenge ahead of Smith, then, was to build a stadium that would stand the test of time. The developers opted to keep the B&O Warehouse as an integral part of the design. They implemented a brick-and-green color scheme around the yard and made the ambitious — and successful — decision to keep Eutaw Street inside the gates of the stadium.

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And now, with the Orioles set to remain at Camden Yards for at least another 30 years, Smith’s principal concern has been alleviated.

The lasting power of Camden Yards has been confirmed.

“When I think about the Orioles renewing their lease, I feel like maybe I can finally exhale,” Smith said. “At least we’ll know Camden Yards will be around longer than Memorial Stadium.”

The Orioles, state and Maryland Stadium Authority reached a lease agreement Thursday for another 30 years at the iconic ballpark. According to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, the agreement includes two five-year extension options.

To Smith, securing the longevity of the ballpark she played a large part in creating is validation of the effort she and others made.

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When they studied other buildings for inspiration, they didn’t just analyze ballparks. Of course, there were Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Tiger Stadium that were of the classic-stadium feel they wanted to create at Camden Yards. But they also studied historic buildings that have graced downtowns across the country, including Baltimore.

“What’s given it its cache is that it’s of Baltimore,” Smith said. “It’s not just the warehouse. The existence of the warehouse was the inspiration for the creation of Eutaw Street as a place — not just a street within the ballpark. That gave rise to the idea of marking home runs when they were hit out onto the street, and the notion of keeping the picnic area visually open so you had a view of the downtown skyline.”

Camden Yards, in Smith’s view, is an extension of Baltimore.

It’s not just the brick and steel and dark green coloring but the vintage Baltimore baseball club logo on the ends of each row of seats and the weather vanes that sit atop the scoreboard.

“When the team is good, it draws really well and the stadium is full of people wearing orange,” outfielder Austin Hays said. “It’s really, really just an awesome visual, and it’s so loud here because when everyone’s yelling it caroms off the warehouse and comes back into the stadium.”

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All of that adds to the unique experience of the park, and fans and players alike marvel at the surroundings.

“Whenever we take the field at Camden Yards, I feel like every single day we get to play catch, we get to throw, get to play, we get to play at one of the most historic ballparks in the league,” right-hander Tyler Wells said. “I mean, you’re talking about a ballpark that transformed Major League Baseball. It’s special, because there isn’t anything else like it. You get a lot of cityscapes in a lot of places. When you’re at Camden, you don’t get a cityscape; you get the warehouse. I think what that does is it creates a unique appearance of it being an outdoor ballpark that you’re still immersed in.”

The stadium is the ninth oldest in the majors, but it’s still a gem. And, while there will be facelifts over the years to elevate the experience, Smith’s biggest fear is gone.

The Orioles are here to stay at Camden Yards.

“It means the world to a lot of these people and to the city, because you get to go out and you get to see a piece of baseball history, but you also get to see one of the two major professional teams in Baltimore,” Wells said. “With such legends that have played here, it’s created such an unbelievable culture within the city. You’re talking about [Jim] Palmer, and you’re talking about Cal Ripken, you’re talking about the Earl Weaver days, you’re talking about even just the Delmon Young hit. You’re talking about things that brought this city together that people will never forget, and I think it’s a cool place to be, and I think it means more to the city than people even realize.”

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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