- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s Camden Station — gateway to the Orioles’ ballpark and site of a new museum devoted to Maryland sports — may soon be home to one of the largest comic book and pop culture museums in the country.

The Maryland Stadium Authority voted Wednesday to lease space for the museum to Steve Geppi, a minority owner of the Orioles who built his fortune as a comic book distributor and magazine publisher.

The proposed museum would be built on Geppi’s private collection, some of which is on display at his Timonium, Md.-based Diamond Comic Distributors. Geppi’s collection includes vintage comics, animation cels, antique toys, posters and oil paintings.

The lease must be approved by the General Assembly’s Legislative Policy Committee before becoming final. Stadium authority officials said they expect the museum to open in about a year.

Though comic collectors and conventions are plentiful, the proposed museum may be relatively unique. The New York City Comic Book Museum — which for years has described itself as the only such venue — does not have a fixed location, displaying its collection at various events around New York.

Later this year, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hammer Museum, both in Los Angeles, will stage an exhibition featuring 15 American comic artists, from Fantastic Four illustrator Jack Kirby to Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman.

In a statement released Wednesday, Geppi said it would be premature to announce the museum as a done deal but called the project a “longtime dream.”

Geppi’s Entertainment Museum would occupy part of the second and third floors of Camden Station, the restored 19th-century brick train station that serves as the gateway to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Earlier this month, officials unveiled the Sports Legends at Camden Yards, a museum devoted to Maryland sports, including life-size pictures and videos about Baltimore native Babe Ruth, the Orioles Hall of Fame, and several connected to the career of Cal Ripken Jr. who broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played.

Stadium authority chairman Carl A.J. Wright told the Baltimore Sun that Geppi’s museum would be an ideal complement to the Sports Legends museum.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of synergy between the two, and it will only be helpful” to Camden Yards, he said.

Added Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Sports Legends museum, “I think this really can help establish Camden Yards as a full-day destination for tourists.”

Gibbons said he’s seen the comic book gallery Geppi keeps in his office and found it “stunning.”

“I think most people are rooted somewhere in the comic book world just like they are in sports,” Gibbons said. “I think you’ll see a wonderful synergy where people come to visit Steve’s gallery and spill over to us.”

Gibbons said he has not talked with Geppi about creating tickets that would cover admission to both museums but said he envisions packaging the two destinations along with ballpark tours at Camden Yards.

Geppi started with a lone comic book shop in Baltimore in 1974 and went on to found the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books. He also owns Baltimore Magazine and a minority share of the Orioles.

The stadium authority approved a 20-year lease at $346,788 a year for the 16,000- square-foot space, similar to the lease the authority approved for the Sports Legends museum.

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