What's Good for Baltimore. . .

January 02, 1993

To no one's surprise, the new ballpark at Camden Yards has proved to be an economic bonanza for downtown business. Fans visiting the ballpark in its inaugural season spent $52.8 million around the metropolitan area in addition to the substantial sums they left inside the ballpark for tickets, souvenirs, hot dogs, beer and Boog's barbecue. That is two-and-a-half times as much as visitors to Memorial Stadium spent a year earlier.

Most, but not all, of it was spent in the downtown area. Locating the new ballpark near other attractions where fans would be tempted to arrive early or linger after the game has proved a wise decision. Business after business -- and attractions like the National Aquarium -- recorded noticeable increases on game days.

But there is another important finding in the survey of ball fans conducted last summer by the Baltimore Planning Department. The entire metropolitan area benefited from the ballpark and the excitement it generated around the country.

Twenty-eight percent of the dollars spent by fans going to or from the ballpark was spent in the suburbs -- about $15 million. Overwhelmingly these were visitors from outside the Baltimore or Washington metropolitan areas -- the kind of people who stay in hotels or motels and dine in restaurants. Suburban hotels and motels filled nearly 40,000 room nights with baseball fans. Visitors to Camden Yards spent some 40 percent more this year in the suburbs than their counterparts did in Memorial Stadium's last season.

So it's not just Baltimore's ballpark -- not for fans and not for the businesses that profit by having the Orioles playing downtown. That's a lesson suburban business owners and their representatives in the General Assembly should remember when it comes time this winter to vote funds for expansion of the Convention Center downtown.

Just as the ballpark brings business to Towson, northern Anne Arundel County and sometimes Columbia, so does the Convention Center. Or so it did until recently, when its bookings fell drastically because it is no longer large enough to compete with new arenas in other mid-Atlantic cities.

Big conventions on Pratt Street often send people attending them outside the city for rooms -- as many as 13 percent in a couple of recent cases. Caterers and other suburban businesses get some of the Convention Center's trade. Four years ago, one survey estimated that Baltimore conventions spent $39 million on goods and services from businesses elsewhere in Maryland, including $12 million in wages to their employees.

Just more evidence that what's good for Baltimore is often good for its neighbors as well.

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