With Baltimore possibly building a new arena on the site of his team's home, 1st Mariner Arena, Blast owner Ed Hale will be looking for a new place to play - or he might just build one himself in Baltimore County.
"I knew this could eventually happen," he said of the arena building site. "I've looked at UMBC and Towson University for possible places to play, but they don't work [because of small capacity]. And I've looked at possible sites in Baltimore County to build an arena - to privately build an arena - outside the city that would seat from 12,000 to 15,000. A nice size for our team and small concerts. And I've already had calls from people in Baltimore County with property who have said, 'If you want to do it, let's go.'"
"[The Blast] was never taken into account," Hale said when asked about the city's decision to build a new 18,500-seat arena on the 1st Mariner site. "We've been there for 20 years. Bernie Rodin brought the team to town in 1980, and we're not relevant? I've been a pretty good citizen. I've never asked for anything, and not one thing has been given to me."
Baltimore owns 1st Mariner Arena, SMG operates it and Hale has been the arena's biggest tenant since 1988. He said he spent $1million of his own money to construct billboards around the building's exterior and on other improvements to spruce it up. The loss of the billboards would cost him from $500,000 to $1 million a year.
He said he also has a contract giving him the arena's naming rights through 2012.
"What happens to that?" he asked.
For years, Hale lost millions with the Blast, and it wasn't until the past three years that the team found a niche. Drawing an average of about 7,300 and profiting from the billboard revenue, the team finally started to inch into the black.
"I've lost a lot of money there, and, now, when it is finally making business sense to have it, it's going to go away," he said. "I think there are unintended consequences that they haven't thought about. Where are we going to play? Where is the circus and Disney going to go? What's going to happen to all the people that work in that building and for my team during [the estimated three years] of construction?
"I don't like it, and no one has given me a good rationale yet. When the [Orioles] play a game the same day as the Blast, the gridlock there is terrible. I would have liked to have had the arena in Canton, but there were other sites that would also have been OK. But you can't just tear down the arena. I don't understand this decision."
Though the Major Indoor Soccer League folded after the Blast won the 2008 championship, the league has been reorganized. The new league, still to be named, will have eight to 10 teams and is scheduled to begin play Nov.15.