Camden Yards was worth it

March 29, 2012

Since 1992, its inaugural year, Camden Yards has brought over 55 million people into downtown Baltimore. If each of those fans spent just $25 while in Baltimore, the state will have earned almost $84 million in sales tax revenue, and add a few million more for parking and alcohol taxes. The stadium only cost $110 million to build, about $2 for each visitor.

Any Orioles fan will tell you that many in attendance at Camden Yards come from out of state. These tourists bring money into Maryland; the hotels out-of-towners stay at, the gas they buy, the flights they take and the parking they pay for put money in the state's coffers. If they haven't already, the taxpayers should break even pretty soon. And it's only been 20 years.

The Baltimore Convention Center, however, completed its last renovation in 1997, more recently than Camden Yards was built, and it is already considered uncompetitive. Let's compare the two facilities: in 2010, the Baltimore Convention Center only drew 389,000 people. That same year, 1.7 million people flocked to Camden Yards. Meanwhile, the Convention Center's total cost was about $202 million. In short, the Convention Center draws 1.3 million fewer visitors to Baltimore each year and cost twice as much to build.

With all this talk of economic value ("Was Camden Yards worth it?" March 27), it's easy to lose sight of the intangible benefits a ballpark like Camden Yards gives us. Camden Yards, unlike the Convention Center, is a source of civic pride and will continue to be for years to come. So, consider it a long-term investment in Baltimore because great stadiums don't need to be replaced, and Camden Yards, though it's only 20 years old, is already a classic. There are many things that Baltimore could improve, but it's hard to imagine a better ballpark.

Jake Stern

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