Put arena by interstate and bring on the games

May 17, 2007|By DAN RODRICKS

A report this week says what we've known for, like, infinity: Baltimore needs a new arena to replace the old arena. In the old arena, I saw, among many other entertainments, Raw is War, the Village People, Sesame Street Live, eight Russian women on pogo sticks, Airiana The Human Arrow, the Baltimore Bandits and Luciano Pavarotti.

Thanks for the memories.

Now, let's move on.

Let's build a new arena where banker, developer and Baltimore Blast owner Ed Hale wants to build a new arena -- out next to Ed Hale's property in Southeast Baltimore - because that will mean no interruption in the use of the old arena during construction of the new arena and because it's a smart location.

Of course, it's in Ed Hale's interest that a new arena be built near his Boston Street developments. But he also happens to be right about this.

The arena would be within the city limits, yet out by the interstate in an area of Baltimore that is all about the future.

You got your access, you got your egress. You got your young people buying houses, buying tickets to concerts and home games.

That's what you want.

Let's roll.

Pardon my lack of caution in this matter.

I'm one of those Baltimoreans who is sick of the whole discussion about the downtown arena. I wasn't here when the place opened, but apparently a lot of people felt the arena was obsolete on the day of the ribbon-cutting. One end of it has a stage, and what's up with that?

The building is now 40-something and, while it has a good location, it doesn't have the amenities or the power of attraction that a new area would have.

(By the way, I don't mean to denigrate the stage on which the Beatles and Elvis performed. When the time comes to tear the arena down, the city should cut the stage into bits and sell them.)

I'm also one of those Baltimoreans who believe this region will support more professional sports teams, despite the track record. The track record is all based on the experiences in the old arena. What we need is a new start, a new arena and a new management plan that will make all users successful.

I could go on, so I will. But first let me say this: The suits who think Baltimore will never have a National Basketball Association team again, and never have a team in the National Hockey League - you are small-thinking guys. I just want to say that on behalf of the dreamers and optimists out here.

I hate this kind of Podunk thinking. It's lazy. It presumes that we can't have the NHL or NBA here because franchises of those leagues exist in nearby markets.

But a fancy new arena out by the interstate, on the edge of a city that could see huge population growth in the next 20 years - how do we know the NHL and NBA could not be attracted to such a place?

Baltimore leadership sometimes gets so insular it dares dream of nothing grand.

And so the "experts" say we have to settle for minor league sports in this new arena.

OK.

Let me repeat that: OK.

It's OK with me.

I am OK with minor league anything at this point.

I am so eager to see something new and different on the sports scene here - something else to talk about besides the Orioles and the Ravens - that I'll settle for the minors.

I like the minors.

I can embrace a minor league hockey team, for instance, and I think the region will - in a new arena out by the interstate.

Make the pricing family-friendly. Avoid Sunday afternoon home games during the NFL season. Avoid midweek games. Manage the thing smartly, give the team a chance to succeed.

We should have an American Hockey League franchise here. We could at least have an ECHL team. Augusta has a team in the ECHL, for cryin' out loud, and so does Trenton.

Baltimore has an indoor football right now, the Blackbirds. It could probably have an entry in the more established, higher-end Arena Football League.

Basketball?

Baltimore should certainly be a host city for collegiate regionals.

As for the professional game, there's the American Basketball Association. An ABA team played here briefly in 2006 but folded.

Joe Newman, CEO of the new league, said yesterday that Baltimore could have a new ABA team by November, with a better shot at success. He wasn't ready to identify the ownership group but said player tryouts would be held locally and that the team would probably play at a community college, as many ABA teams do.

In time, who knows? Maybe the ABA becomes successful. Maybe a Baltimore team could take a few dates in the new arena.

Lacrosse? It's ridiculous we don't have a team in the National Lacrosse League, playing the indoor game. Again, there's a track record of stops and starts in this sport. But, again, it involves the downtown arena that needed to be replaced probably 30 years ago.

Please, let's move on.

Let's roll.

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