It's entertainment Inner Harbor: Fully leased Power Plant underscores new trend in amusements.

October 18, 1997

THE TURNAROUND David Cordish has produced at the Power Plant is quite astonishing. Less than a year after he was given control of the failed Inner Harbor amusement complex, Mr. Cordish has it fully leased with entertainment uses never before seen in this town.

The latest tenant signed is the ESPN Grill, a prototype sports eatery the cable operator and Walt Disney Co. will unveil next spring and hope to duplicate throughout the nation.

It may not be evident yet, but the whole character of the Inner Harbor tourism district is changing.

Restaurants at Rouse Co.'s Harborplace, which emphasized their Maryland origins and offerings, are largely a memory. They are being replaced by chain operations that feature eating as a novelty event. The always-crowded Cheesecake Factory is one such spot. Another example is Planet Hollywood, which will open in the Pratt Street Pavilion next spring.

The Power Plant should be completing its $40 million makeover about the same time. In addition to the existing Hard Rock Cafe and forthcoming ESPN Grill, the complex will boast a Barnes & Noble book and music store, an eight-screen movie theater cluster, a jazz club and a comedy club.

A crucial question, however, remains unanswered: Can the Baltimore market, which so far has only been able to produce weekend crowds, muster sufficient support for the entertainment operators who have to be able to make money seven days a week?

Expectations are high. But will such entertainment concepts prove viable at Harborplace?

John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, for example, thinks that he can translate ESPN's presence in Baltimore into exposure on cable television. "Hundreds of thousands of Americans and the world are going to be able to see what Baltimore and Maryland have to offer," he predicts. That would be a great boost for local tourism.

Pub Date: 10/18/97

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