Canton building would face number of considerations

Blast owner Ed Hale, the chairman and chief executive officer of 1st Mariner Bank, would love to see a new arena built in East Baltimore near his headquarters.

Whether that objective will be realized hinges on a multitude of factors.

"Many difficult decisions have to be made, notably funding and location," said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership, one of a number of organizations working on a two-part study examining the state of 1st Mariner Arena that is scheduled to be released next month. "We have to keep all the options open."

The Maryland Stadium Authority commissioned the study of 1st Mariner nearly three years ago to determine whether it would be more feasible to upgrade the building or replace it. Hale's idea to build in Canton is not a part of that report.

In an interview with The Examiner on Tuesday, Hale said "five years out" was his timetable for a 12,000- to 15,000-seat arena on a 28-acre plot currently owned by Exxon near the Boston Street exit of Interstate 95.

"This is very premature, very preliminary," Hale said yesterday. "I've got a long way to go. I'd have to buy the property, clean it up, work on access and egress off I-95. But I've been talking about building an arena for years."

He is very concerned that if a decision is made to rebuild on the current site, his team would have no suitable alternative place in which to play, a problem that also would be faced by concerts and other entertainment vehicles that use 1st Mariner.

Hale does not believe a larger arena is viable for Baltimore because of what he called "territorial restrictions" that could be imposed by Washington regarding potential NHL and/or NBA franchises.

A consensus must be reached about whether it is cost-prohibitive to retrofit a number of fixtures at 1st Mariner or rebuild entirely. Another item being considered is transportation to and from any new arena because mass transit is already in place downtown.

"Where the city and state stand on ownership is to be determined," Fowler said. "Funding and location are the next two steps.

"We're certainly keeping Ed Hale in the loop. He's got a very successful franchise we don't want to disrupt. A new arena, wherever it is, ought to accommodate the Blast."

"If a new arena is to be built, other locations will have to be given consideration," said Don Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee. "Ed is a major stakeholder in this, and Canton is a location that will be examined."


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