Hockey team plans to leave Odenton practice rink

State-of-the-art ice area lures Capitals to Virginia

December 19, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

For more than a decade, Baltimore area hockey fans have watched for free as the Washington Capitals practiced at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton.

But that opportunity will soon be gone.

In May 2006, the Capitals plan to move to a newer, larger facility to be built atop the Ballston Common Mall parking garage in Arlington, Va. That county's board approved money for the $42.8 million project last week.

The Capitals had openly contemplated the move for years, with team officials saying they wanted to be closer to their fans and to practice in a state-of-the-art complex.

The team has practiced in Anne Arundel County's Piney Orchard Ice Arena since 1991, though players have not appeared this fall because of a protracted labor dispute that has shut down the National Hockey League.

The owners of the Piney Orchard rink in western Anne Arundel said they were not surprised to hear the Capitals are leaving after the 2005-2006 season.

"It was just a matter of time," said Jim Renner, a co-owner of the rink. "They notified us years ago that they were looking at this."

Renner said he and his partners examined ways to keep the team but said, "We couldn't afford to do what they wanted on our own."

He added that the rink will miss the professional team but said he has plans to make up lost revenue by expanding youth hockey and figure skating programs.

Anne Arundel officials expressed similar sentiments. County Executive Janet S. Owens met with team officials several years ago, hoping to convince them to stay. But she and county officials quickly concluded they could not compete with Arlington's plans for a major, publicly funded facility.

"Arlington is really building them a showplace and not charging them a cent for it," said William Badger, Anne Arundel's director of economic development. Badger said the loss would not have a great economic impact on the county, noting that the team's practices did not draw large crowds and did not draw new businesses to the surrounding area.

"We'll hate like heck to see them go, but from a management standpoint, it's certainly an understandable move," Renner said.

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