Neighbors review plans for new arena at Towson University

School sought community input over 5,000-seat facility

February 16, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Towson University officials offered neighbors of the campus a look at final plans for a $68 million athletic center at a meeting Tuesday.

The university, which expects to break ground on the 5,000-seat arena this spring, encouraged residents to ask questions and comment on the design as well as landscaping and lighting. Patrick Foretich, board member of the Rodgers Forge Community Association, said before the meeting the neighbors' greatest concerns surround the actual construction activity and the ensuing debris as well as the noise during daytime hours.

"We also want to see the plans for the arena, before they are finalized," he said.

The university and the long-established neighborhood of 1,800 homes had initially been at odds over the location of the facility, set for construction on the northwest side of the Towson Center Arena, but ultimately reached an agreement that included a tree buffer along the private property line and changes to the orientation of the building.

After the meeting, several residents seemed pleased with the university's efforts to reach out to neighbors.

"They are paying attention," said Wes Taylor, a member of the community group.

The residents' major concerns were "the visual impact" and noise, he said.

One resident raised concerns about noise from air conditioning equipment, but officials explained the units would eventually be moved inside the building to cut down on noise.

Kevin McGivern said the school has improved its efforts to communicate with residents, saying that before there was "lack of communication."

Locating the new facility next to the adjacent arena will cost less and will allow easier access to the older building, which is to be renovated into practice courts, classrooms and exhibit areas. The older building will remain in use during construction.

Plans for a garage between the new arena and adjoining athletic fields were scrapped. But the university's 10-year master plan does include a garage near Unitas Stadium and Osler Drive.

The expanded arena will be the only one of its size in the area and will fill a niche in the community, university officials said.

The current building plays host to graduations for most high schools in the area. The expansion would meet the university's needs for its athletic programs and its growing enrollment, now at more than 21,000. The facility will also be available for rentals.

An earlier version of this story misstated the estimated cost of the project and erred about the inclusion of a parking garage.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

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