Citing a soured relationship with city government, Edwin F. Hale Sr., the Baltimore trucking magnate, developer and former CEO of First Mariner Bancorp, said Wednesday that he has moved his businesses to Baltimore County.
"I've been around for 43 years, employing thousands of people," Hale said. "I love the city, but after 43 years, I'm gone. I didn't want to leave, but they didn't care about us staying. I moved all my businesses out of the city and into the county."
Hale's businesses, the Baltimore Blast Corp. and Hale Properties LLC, which employ about 40 people, will have their headquarters in Edgemere, he said. The Blast will continue to play games at Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena but will no longer practice at the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena in Canton, which Hale used to manage.
"I had a wonderful relationship with Gov. [William Donald] Schaefer. Mayor [Kurt] Schmoke's wife is on my bank board. I got along well with Sheila Dixon," Hale said. "I don't know why things are being done the way they are now. They didn't seem to be concerned about me being there or not being there."
City officials said the dispute with Hale stemmed from an effort to get more value for taxpayers out of the arena, and taxpayers already are getting a better deal under a new operator.
Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the administration issued a request for proposals to run the facility after years of paying Hale to do so.
"It was an open and transparent bidding process," O'Doherty said. "The administration had hoped that Mr. Hale would bid on the RFP, but he declined to do so."
The venue's new operator, Baltimore-based Coppermine Fieldhouse LLC, began managing the facility Jan. 22, according to Bill Vondrasek, the city's chief of parks.
Under an old deal with Hale, the city paid his firm $270,000 a year, Vondrasek said. Under the terms of Coppermine's deal, the company will pay the city $72,000 a year.
"It's a great deal for the taxpayers," Vondrasek said, adding that Coppermine already has brought a lot of youth events to the facility.
Hale said he didn't bid on the arena contract because he viewed the request, which included requirements to care for surrounding grounds, as onerous.
"We would have been asked to clean up the dog park, take care of a little wading pool where the homeless bathe and remove people playing basketball from the court," he said. "This is inherently dangerous. I did not want any part of that."
Vondrasek said the RFP contained nothing about the dog park and the wading pool hasn't functioned for at least a year.
Hale said he has moved the Blast's practices to the Baltimore County-owned Northeast Regional Recreation Center in Parkville.
County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said the professional soccer team has been practicing four times a week at the facility, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., a time she said does not interfere with local groups' practices. The team has been leasing space and is in discussions with the county about continuing to do so.
Hale said he will remain the head of the city's tourism board.
Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.
twitter.com/lukebroadwaterCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun