The city's Bureau of Purchases decided to combine the naming rights with the advertising and management contract because it "made for a more efficient process," she said.
In June, the city's Board of Estimates approved a six-month extension of naming rights for 1st Mariner Arena. Arena Ventures LLC, run by former 1st Mariner Bank CEO Ed Hale, has paid $75,000 a year since 2002 to keep the bank's name in lights on the side of arena.
1st Mariner would be happy to entertain the idea of keeping its name on the walls of the arena, said Dennis Finnegan, the bank's executive vice president. "It's been a good relationship," he said.
It was Hale who suggested the city allow the Baltimore Arena's naming rights to be sold, he said.
Hale's indoor soccer team, the Baltimore Blast, has been a primary tenant of the arena since the early 1980s. The arena also has been home to indoor lacrosse and lingerie football teams, and is a popular stop for professional wrestling tours.
While luring an NBA or NHL team to Baltimore remains unlikely because of the proximity of teams in Washington and Philadelphia, the March study suggested a new facility could draw one-time or infrequently occurring events such as NCAA tournaments or Olympic qualifiers.
But there will always be those who hope for a home team to root for between the end of the Ravens' season and the beginning of baseball in the spring.
Howie Lewis remembers his first arena visit to watch hockey back in 1988. Even then the arena felt cramped and old, he said, with too many obstructed-view seats. But that wasn't that unusual for minor-league arenas at the time.
Now, however, teams in smaller markets boast updated facilities. Lewis, a member of the Baltimore Bandits Booster Club, has season tickets for the Hershey Bears, a minor-league hockey team whose gleaming 10-year-old arena makes 1st Mariner seem antiquated and inadequate.
Lewis said he believes a small, ardent fan base for hockey remains in Baltimore, and the city could again host a team in hockey's top minor league, the American Hockey League. The Clippers (1962-76), Skipjacks (1982-93) and Bandits (1995-97) had intermittent success, but Lewis feels the addition of teams in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Norfolk, Va., has increased awareness of minor-league hockey.
"All people could talk about was whether Baltimore would get another team," said Lewis, who recently gathered with hundreds of other die-hard AHL fans in Cleveland. "It just makes so much sense. But it's only going to happen if they get a new building."