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City seeks new operator for Pier Six Pavilion

City seeks new operator for Pier Six Pavilion

The Baltimore Development Corp. said Monday it is looking for a new company to improve and manage the Inner Harbor's Pier Six Pavilion and boost the number of shows offered at the concert venue.

The city's longstanding agreement with the Cordish Cos. expires at the end of this year. Last year, Cordish floated a proposal to build a new arena on the site.

The BDC wants a new firm to fund capital improvements, such as a new sound system, as well as the installation of additional seating, according to the request for proposals. The agency, the city's development arm, will consider the amount of planned investment when negotiating the length of the lease, expected to be a minimum term of seven years, with three-year renewal options.

Applicants also should have a strategy for hosting at least 24 events a year, up from the average of 23 per season that occurred between 2009 and 2014. The venue hosted 29 acts last year, according to The Rams Head Group, which operates the facility as a Cordish partner.

Erin McNaboe, president of the Annapolis-based Rams Head Group, said the firm intends to submit a bid to continue managing the venue, which she said generated about $2 million in admission and amusement taxes for the city between 2006 and 2014.

"Rams Head remains steadfast with our desire to bring a range of music to the majestic Pier Six facility; we anticipate a wonderful 2016 season ahead," McNaboe wrote in an email.

Asked about the Cordish arena proposal, Susan Yum, a spokeswoman for the BDC, wrote in an email that the decision to issue the request for proposals for the outdoor, waterfront venue is "separate from whatever is going on with the arena."

"We're issuing the RFP now to enable plenty of time to get a management group in place prior to the contract expiring," she said.

The Cordish Cos., owner of nearby Power Plant Live, first won a contract in 1998 to manage the pavilion, which seats about 3,350 under its white tent and another 1,000 people on the lawn. When BDC awarded rights to the firm again in 2006, officials said they hoped to see Cordish expand seating to 6,000 with $2 million in upgrades to the facility.

Cordish, which also developed the Maryland Live casino, did not respond to a request for comment.

Pier Six, constructed in 1991, does not have a reputation for attracting cutting-edge acts, but the request for proposals said attendance has increased, with shows drawing an average of 3,000 people, up from 1,800 in 2004. Revenue also has increased, it said.

Under the terms of the 2006 agreement, the city received 25 percent of the Pier Six Pavilion's annual net revenue, as well as $2,500 for each for-profit rental. The agreement said Cordish must produce at least 25 events per season and if the number of shows were to fall below 20 three years in a row, either party could terminate the deal. That agreement initially was scheduled to expire in 2013.

The losing 2006 bid, backed by H&S Properties Development Corp., Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, and Doracon Contracting had proposed moving the concert facility east to Harbor Point and building a residential and retail development on the Pier Six site.

New proposals are due April 11.

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