City officials have prepared plans for a new 20,000-sea sports arena in downtown Baltimore that would be the possible home to a new NBA basketball team as well as the city's minor league ice hockey team.
In a feasibility study circulated among city planners and officials at the city's economic development agency, the proposed arena would be constructed north of Camden Yards, completing Baltimore's sports complex row along Interstate 395 into center city.
The cost of the center is expected to be between $100 million and $200 million. The money would come from a mix of state, city and private funds.
"I have said that this is the next big project for Baltimore," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday. "My hope is that after we complete the new football stadium, there will be a new sports arena in downtown Baltimore."
The new Baltimore Ravens stadium is under construction and will be completed in August 1998. The proposed arena would be on a 1.75-acre lot bounded by Camden, Pratt, Eutaw and Paca streets. Currently, there is a parking lot on the site.
"The idea was to continue to build a sports complex complementing the Oriole park and the Ravens stadium," Baltimore Development Corp. chair M. J. "Jay" Brodie said yesterday.
Representatives of the BDC and the city's Planning Department have met in the past few months to discuss the location of the proposed arena. City leaders also have made preliminary inquiries to officials in Washington, where a $200 million Washington Bullets arena is being built.
Earlier this week, the owner of the Bandits hockey team made public his plan for a new, albeit smaller, arena in southwest Baltimore County.
In Baltimore's proposed arena, there are plans for about 50 skyboxes. Also included is a large retail sports center designed to draw larger crowds.
NTC "For the numbers to work, we would have to have either a National Hockey League team or an NBA team," said Charles Graves, director of Baltimore's Department of Planning.
Graves said the city wants to have the new arena in Baltimore "within five to 10 years." He said that the time frame wasn't too far off given that the new Ravens stadium hasn't been completed yet.
There are no formal efforts under way to get an NBA team to play in Baltimore. But Brodie said the city would seek an expansion team.
Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman John A. Moag Jr. said yesterday that the organization has no jurisdiction over acquiring a professional basketball team, unlike its powers in seeking baseball and football franchises. But if the mayor wanted help, he said, the stadium authority would try to help if given clearance from the governor.
While city officials see a sports team as crucial to construction of the 20,000-seat arena, Moag said regardless it is time to replace the city's aging arena on Howard Street.
The 33-year-old, 11,200-seat Baltimore Arena should be torn down, city leaders contend.
"There is no question that the arena, given its age and current design, needs to be replaced. Renovations would probably be out of the question," Graves said.
The plans for the new arena in Baltimore come as the owner of the Baltimore Bandits is talking about building another arena in southwest Baltimore County. The team plays in the Baltimore Arena.
Key questions remain as to how the proposed 10,000-seat county coliseum would be financed. Bandits owner Michael A. Caggiano wants to bankroll the $42 million project with about $20 million in public funds.
Schmoke said yesterday that his plan has been in the works for months and is not in response to the competitive threat of the proposed county arena.
Schmoke said that he wants to keep the Bandits playing in Baltimore City, but said that there are too few hockey fans to justify construction of a new arena.
"Ice hockey has had a troubled history in Baltimore City," Schmoke said yesterday. "There is a core group of 6,000 to 8,000 fans. Apparently the team has not been able to expand. That calls into question plans to build a facility based on ice hockey."
City leaders and the stadium authority officials are mulling plans to build an underground parking facility near the proposed Baltimore arena site. Graves said that if the garage were constructed so that a building could be built atop, then the proposed arena would be an ideal match.
"It is our belief that producing a quality arena at this location will enhance the public environment and be a major physical feature downtown," Graves wrote to Brodie in a summer memo.
L "This is a new glory for Baltimore," Graves added yesterday.
Pub Date: 10/04/96