Four months after standing on a plot in southwest Baltimore County to unveil his dream of building a new arena, the owner of Baltimore's professional hockey team pulled the plug yesterday on the project.
Baltimore Bandits President Michael A. Caggiano killed his plans for the County Coliseum after he was unable to persuade County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger to free up public dollars to help develop the $42 million, 11,500-seat facility.
"Over the last couple of months, we tried everything," Caggiano said yesterday. "If the public sector is not supporting it, that's tough. I feel bad -- not only for us, but for the residents down there."
For the communities of Arbutus, Lansdowne and Halethorpe, the coliseum offered hope of an economic shot in the arm -- a venue that would generate jobs and offer an affordable recreational outlet for families.
"I'm very upset about the cancellation of the project," said Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, the Catonsville Democrat whose district would have benefited from a new arena.
"It will leave a large void," Moxley added. "The area is in desperate need of some type of recreational facility so that the kids have a way to funnel their energy. This would have provided that."
After Ruppersberger closed the door to public money in October, Caggiano searched for private funding. In a statement yesterday, Caggiano said he was able to "secure 75 percent of the cost" but "unable to raise the other 25 percent without some public assistance."
"Unfortunately, our efforts to interest the public sector in this project proved futile," Caggiano said. "As a result of this opposition, we have decided to withdraw our plan to construct our sports and entertainment coliseum in southwest Baltimore County."
In October, weeks after Caggiano unveiled his plans, Ruppersberger went on record with concerns that the proposed Lansdowne-Halethorpe arena would compete with city sports complexes -- existing and planned.
City officials viewed it as direct competition to the Baltimore Arena and a new, $100 million to $200 million arena envisioned by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. They questioned whether a market exists for two new arenas.
"The state and city and region have made an investment in Oriole Park and a football stadium for the Ravens, and he doesn't think we should be building facilities that would be competing with facilities downtown," Ruppersberger's spokesman, Michael H. Davis, said yesterday.
"Dutch said we have a limited amount of public funds. We're spending large amounts of money on school construction and other infrastructure, and we're not going to be able to put public funds into this project."
Davis added: "We've never seen any proof that [Caggiano] had 75 percent private financing."
Caggiano said the county never asked to see proof of the 75 percent. "We would have been happy to show it to them," he said.
With the Baltimore County plan now withdrawn, Caggiano said he is "pursuing other areas throughout Maryland," including potential sites in Anne Arundel and Harford counties.
When Caggiano announced his Baltimore County plans, Moxley was on hand to praise the economic prospects: new jobs, an increased tax base, the luster of the county's own coliseum.
Caggiano later pushed his plans in a series of community forums, promising professional hockey, country music concerts, gymnastics meets and skating shows.
But from the start, the ambitious proposal faced an uphill battle.
Caggiano acknowledged as much on the day he announced the plans. "This is the first step in a long process," he said.
Pub Date: 1/23/97