March Madness could be coming to Baltimore.
The Baltimore Arena is one of three southern sites being considered to host first- and second-round games in the East Regional of the 1995 NCAA Division I basketball tournament. UMBC is the host institution on the application, and officials there will know the outcome of the bid in the first week of December.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time an event of this kind would be held in Baltimore," UMBC athletic director Charlie Brown said. "We would need to develop a tremendous amount of staff time to the project, but the university is behind us, and I know the Arena management is very excited by the prospect."
Bill Hancock, the director of the NCAA Division I tournament, visited Baltimore last Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 22-23. He toured the Arena and discussed particulars with UMBC, Arena and elected officials, and members of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
"When screening possible sites, we primarily visit places the tournament has never been, or sites it hasn't been at in a significant time," said Joe Quinlan, an assistant to Hancock. "Mr. Hancock will report his findings to a subcommittee, and the men's basketball committee will consider the possible sites at their meeting Dec. 2-4."
Many NCAA Division II and III tournaments have been held in the area, but Cole Field House is the closest Baltimoreans have ever been to the Division I tournament. Brown said one possible drawback is that the Capital Centre will host NCAA tournament games in 1994.
"We've been asked by the NCAA: Aren't we in the same market?" Brown said. "We're not part of Washington."
Brown scheduled a UMBC game at the Arena last season, and the Retrievers will play Penn State there Feb. 17.
"The unification of UMBC and the University of Maryland at Baltimore is possible, and the UMAB campus is practically across the street from the Arena," said Brown. "We feel we can sell out the Arena, and that it's the right size for first- and second-round games. We're not asking for a regional final or the Final Four, and we think our chances are good."
Donna Patterson, general manager of the Arena, said the NCAA tournament would be a prestigious addition to the sports lineup there.The Arena will host the U.S. Olympic trials in gymnastics in 1992.
"It's an exciting opportunity," Patterson said. "It's difficult to say how much hotel revenue would be made, since that's contingent on who's playing, but you're definitely looking to have at least 12,000 people for each day, and that's a lot of bodies downtown. I think it's the kind of event the city would support, no matter who is playing."
The NCAA tournament field is 64 teams, and eight teams each are sent to eight first-round sites. A site has four first-round games on a Thursday or Friday, followed by two second-round games on a Saturday or Sunday.