Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today officially named a local group known as Sports Center USA Inc. to be the next developer of the Pier 4 Power Plant, ending 2 1/2 years of uncertainty about the future of the Inner Harbor landmark.
Headed by Lynda O'Dea, Joseph De Francis and Henry Rosenberg, the team has proposed to create a $30 million sports museum and entertainment complex that would simulate all kinds of sports events and experiences through a combination of high-tech exhibits and memorabilia.
It also would include an area where ABC Sports would mount a tribute to its Wide World of Sports program and commentator Jim McKay.
During a morning news conference inside the Power Plant, Mayor Schmoke unveiled preliminary designs that showed some the area planned for the three building complex:
"Sports Center USA . . . will bring a new dimension to the menu of Inner Harbor attractions," the mayor said. "It is one more sign that the Renaissance continues."
Ms. O'Dea said ABC Sports has committed to mount a 10,000-square-foot exhibit showcasing its Wide World of Sports program. She also unveiled renderings of several other exhibits planned for the building, including a "Fantasy Camp" that would house a sports clinic and celebrity visitors, a "Turbo Sport Theatre" that simulates sports experiences such as skiing down a mountaintop, and "Virtual Sports World," where computer technology would recreate the feeling of car racing or the luge.
"Sports Center USA will be the first national multi-sport museum and entertainment center in the U.S. and the first attraction that applies the newest amusement park technologies to the theme of sports," she said. "Our goal is to provide the ultimate fantasy for sports enthusiasts and a thrilling and enjoyable experience for everyone."
Sports Center USA is the first group to be awarded development rights to the city-owned Power Plant since the city bought back the lease of the Six Flags Corp., which operated an amusement center and nightclub from 1985 to 1990.
It was selected over six other proposals, ranging from a off-Broadway theatre to an ethnic museum. Among the Sports Center principals, Ms. O'Dea is vice president of the Maryland Jockey Club and head of the O'Dea Group, Mr. De Francis is president of the Maryland Jockey Club, and Mr. Rosenberg is chairman of Crown Central Petroleum. Martin P. Azola would be construction manager.
Mayor Schmoke announced that the city is giving the group a six-month negotiating priority that will allow it to finish its designs and line up financing for the project. According to the group's proposal, construction would begin in 1993 and be complete in the fall of 1994.
Ms. O'Dea said she expects the project to attract 1.5 million visitors a year.
She said the admission price, in "1995 dollars," would be $15 for adults and $9 for children and that there will be special rates for groups.
Planners say the project is expected to generate $1.7 million a year in amusement taxes and create 275 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.
Although many sports events are the subject of betting, Ms. O'Dea has said the group has no plans to incorporate gambling of any kind inside the power plant.
"This is a family-oriented entertainment attraction, and we don't think gambling is appropriate to it," she said. "It's a closed issue."
Mayor Schmoke said the long-term lease between the city and the development team would not place any specific restrictions on gambling inside the power plant in case the issue comes up in the future.
He said he is taking the developers at their word when they say they have no plans for off-track betting or casino gambling.