Md. Panel To Consider 2 City Soccer Stadiums

November 04, 2009|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

The Maryland Stadium Authority will study the potential for a 7,000-seat soccer stadium south of M&T Bank Stadium, a $30 million proposal by the city's minor-league, outdoor soccer club that would help anchor a sports and entertainment district near the city's proposed slots casino.

Crystal Palace Football Club USA, which plays at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and has been looking for a site of its own, is forming a joint venture with the owners of about 15 acres in the Carroll Camden Industrial Park to develop a stadium in time for the 2012 season.

Those plans prompted Mayor Sheila Dixon's office to ask the stadium authority to study the project along with an idea to build a separate soccer stadium to attract D.C. United, the Major League Soccer franchise that is looking to move from Washington. The authority voted Tuesday to move ahead with a soccer feasibility study that now includes the Crystal Palace project.

Pete Medd, president of Crystal Palace, said he hopes the study's findings will support the club's economic projections and help pave the way for private financing that will enable the project to break ground as early as mid-2010.

"We're going to be bringing a lot to the city of Baltimore, a great midsize venue for concerts, lacrosse, soccer, community events," Medd said. "It continues the sports entertainment district that was begun by Camden Yards and M&T [stadium] and the proposed casino, and it creates a district that's a destination. The stadium can be a magnet and an anchor for further redevelopment."

The study also will explore the benefits and financing options for building a 17,000- to 20,000-seat stadium along the redeveloped Westport waterfront that could serve as United's permanent home as well as host concerts and other events.

The study will look at the market and financial feasibility and "whether these stadiums can be built and financed and be self-supporting," said Andrew Frank, first deputy mayor for neighborhood and economic development

"We're going to resist the temptation to prejudge it and would like to see the outcome of the study before we conclude whether the Baltimore market could absorb two teams," Frank said.

Crystal Palace is forming a joint venture with BD Ventures, a group that is associated with Durham, N.C., developers Blue Devil Ventures, Medd said.

The stadium would be built on five to six acres of the former Durrett Sheppard Steel Co. property bordered by West Ostend, Wicomico and Bayard streets, west of the parking lot that will be part of the slots project. Medd said the stadium would be developed by the team along with experienced stadium developers.

City officials said BD Ventures longer-term plans call for using the stadium as an anchor for a mixed-use project that would likely be modeled after a project in Durham in which the developer turned tobacco warehouses into a mix of loft apartments, offices and shops.

A representative of BD could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Baltimore has committed to paying 40 percent of the cost of the feasibility study, with the state paying the rest, said Michael Frenz, executive director of the stadium authority. The study is expected to cost about $125,000.

A mayoral spokesman said the city views such projects as long-term efforts. Despite the recession, "we want to make sure we're progressing and looking forward to the future," Scott Peterson said.

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