Group wants arena site near M&T

Its development proposal includes clubs, restaurants, retail stores and residences

November 18, 2007|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,Sun reporter

A group that includes AEG Worldwide - one the world's biggest producers of sports and entertainment programming - says that it wants to build a new arena in Baltimore across from M&T Bank Stadium, on the west side of Russell Street.

The project would include clubs, restaurants, local and national retail stores, and residential units. It is one of several proposals that would link a new arena with the city's football and baseball stadiums.

Seven development groups have submitted proposals for an arena to replace the 45-year-old 1st Mariner Arena downtown. The Baltimore Development Corp. is reviewing the plans and will make a recommendation to the city and state as soon as the spring.

Five of the groups detailed their plans last week. The AEG group, which also includes Pinnacle Properties and Garfield Traub Development, released its plans Friday. (The seventh group, White Rhino Development LLC, has not revealed its plans.)

In addition to the Russell Street location, the AEG group suggests two other potential sites: Port Covington, near the Wal-Mart off Hanover Street south of Federal Hill, and the current arena location.

For the latter to work, 1st Mariner Arena would have to be shut down for several years while it is demolished and a new arena built in its place. Sophie Dagenais, principal of Pinnacle Properties, said the Baltimore Blast soccer team and other groups that use the arena could be relocated during construction.

But on Friday, the general manager of 1st Mariner Arena cast doubt on that plan. Frank Remesch said acts such as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus and Disney on Ice might drop Baltimore from their touring schedule and not return.

"I think it would be the most foolish thing you could ever do - to build it here," Remesch said of the current site. He said the best scenario is for 1st Mariner to remain open until a new arena is ready.

The AEG group has hired economist Anirban Basu, chief executive of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group, to advise on financing and the potential size of the arena. The group has retained RTKL Associates as its architect.

A committee of city leaders and development experts, formed by the Baltimore Development Corp., will review the seven proposals. One member of that committee, Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler, said he is looking for projects that are about more than the arena building.

"Wherever it goes, a new arena ought to be accessible by transit as well as benefit the surrounding neighborhood," Fowler said.

stephen.kiehl@baltsun.com

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