Arena plan offered for city

City Hall says budget couldn't handle it

January 25, 2002|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

A vice president at Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse is floating a plan that calls for a $130 million arena to be constructed either on the site of the existing Baltimore Arena or on a nearby lot.

The idea, championed by Janet Marie Smith, vice president of planning and development for Struever Bros., is being touted now out of concern that prime sites might not be available several years from now. Smith, who directed the design of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and helped build Turner Field in Atlanta, could not be reached yesterday.

"A city of our size and prominence needs to be better served by its arena," said John A. Moag Jr., chief executive of Moag & Co., a sports investment banking firm. "What we have now is, frankly, an embarrassment. Some people have contributed time and effort to at least beginning the discussion for a new building."

The arena proposal, which calls for a seating capacity of 20,000 - nearly double the Baltimore Arena's 11,000 - was a pro bono project created by Struever Bros.; architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross; Rummel, Klepper & Kahl LLP; and Legg Mason. It has been discussed with a variety of Baltimore movers and shakers in recent months.

The plan calls for the new arena to be built either on the site of the city-owned Baltimore Arena, which would be demolished, or on another city-owned parcel on Pratt Street, adjacent to Camden Yards and Camden Station, where Orioles majority owner Peter G. Angelos once hoped to build a hotel.

"There is a consensus among the group that the existing arena site is more supportive of the West Side initiative," said David W. Wallace, a partner with Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, a civil engineering firm that worked on the plan.

"Either of these two sites could be part of the convention center package."

But the city budget doesn't have an extra $110 million to $130 million, a city spokesman said.

"A plan to build an arena with any kind of public financing involved is not a priority for Baltimore right now," said Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the mayor's office. "Obviously, we would welcome plans for a privately funded arena. But it's just not on the radar screen."

The current arena, built in 1964, is outdated and not competitive in today's market, according to the arena plan.

"It does not offer a center stage configuration, seat count, restrooms and amenities required by family shows," the plan says. "With the current facility, we are not a leading candidate for Olympic trials, political conventions, first-run concerts, long runs by circuses, etc."

Mayor Martin O'Malley has said that should Washington-Baltimore win the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, Baltimore would need to have a new arena to serve as an Olympic venue. The region is competing with Houston, San Francisco and New York to be the U.S. choice for the Games. That decision is to be made in November.

"We don't need it for the NBA, and we don't need it for the National Hockey League, we need it because we need a good family gathering spot," said Moag, who played a big role in getting the local Olympic bid for 2012 started.

Such a building also would have far-reaching implications for convention business, he said.

"The Baltimore Convention Center has lost out on conventions that wanted to bring large equipment that couldn't easily fit into the existing facilities," said Paul L. Oliver, a member of the board of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association and owner of Dalesio's Restaurant in Little Italy.

Such a facility could attract family entertainment, political conventions, sporting events and concerts, Oliver said. Increasingly, religious conventions want space for concerts and services, he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.