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Governor, mayor ask for Convention Center study

They want stadium authority to pay for feasibility review

By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun

7:05 PM EDT, June 2, 2011

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Gov. Martin O'Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have asked the Maryland Stadium Authority to pay for a feasibility study of the $900 million proposal to expand Baltimore's Convention Center and build a privately funded, 18,500-seat arena next to it.

They made the request in a letter to the stadium authority's director sent May 24, the day before the Greater Baltimore Committee announced that local construction magnate Willard Hackerman had pledged to form a private group that would fund the $325 million arena and a $175 million, 500-room hotel above it.

O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake said they expect the study to cost $150,000.

The proposed site is bounded roughly by Pratt, Charles, Conway and Sharp streets.

Donald C. Fry, the GBC's president and chief executive, said last week that he believed the $400 million cost of expanding the Convention Center could be funded by the city or state, or both, by issuing bonds, but that legislators would first want to see the results of a feasibility study to determine tax benefits, among other information.

While Hackerman offered to secure private funding for the arena and hotel, Fry said, the entire project needs to be studied, to show tax benefits and other information.

O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake asked for the assessment to provide an estimate of taxes that the project would generate. And, if the project is determined to be viable, they said, they also want an analysis of potential financing options and a strategy for moving the work forward.

The stadium authority's board is scheduled to consider the feasibility study request at a meeting June 14. Fry said he hopes a study could be completed by the end of the year.

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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