Blast players scrimmage at Du Burns Arena.
Blast players scrimmage at Du Burns Arena. (JED KIRSCHBAUM, Baltimore Sun)

City officials are set to award a 20-year contract Wednesday to Coppermine Fieldhouse to manage the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena in Canton, with a pledge from the youth sports business to spend $1.5 million to add turf and lighting to a city-owned field nearby.

"Coppermine has provided really robust programming and different ideas for Du Burns," said Colin Tarbert, the city's deputy mayor for economic development. "We're really excited to have a partner that will be a strong anchor in the Canton area."


The city's Board of Estimates is expected to vote Wednesday on the long-term deal that would allow adult recreation teams to use the field next to the arena at night. But the agreement is being questioned by the area's city councilman, James B. Kraft, who says the contract lacks important details, including who is responsible for picking up trash in the area — the city or the company — and the term is too long.

"If you don't resolve it now, you don't resolve it for 25 years," Kraft said.

The city awarded a five-year contract to Coppermine in 2013 to replace Edwin F. Hale Sr., who used the arena as headquarters for his indoor soccer team, the Baltimore Blast.

The city paid Hale's firm up to $270,000 a year to manage the facility. Coppermine would initially pay the city $72,000 a year.

The deal would extend Coppermine's rights to operate the arena until 2038. The city would re-evaluate the rent every five years.

Coppermine also runs the Coppermine Fieldhouse in Baltimore County.

Alex Jacobs, the president of Coppermine, said the firm has brought youth sports activities such as soccer, baseball and gymnastics to the Du Burns Arena. Hale's old office has been turned into a child care area.

"We've really transformed what was there," Jacobs said. "They didn't have any kids programs. We've made a big push to provide an outlet for families."

New lights at the fenced-in, football-size field next to the arena would make it suitable for adult recreation sports, including flag football and kickball.

Tarbert said Coppermine "came to us and said they'd like to make a pretty substantial capital improvement to the facility.

"In order for them to make that kind of investment, they needed a longer-term deal."

Coppermine negotiated with the local community association over the lights. At first, the business wanted to keep night programs open until 11 p.m., city officials said, but agreed to shut the games down by 10 p.m.

Sean Flanagan, president of the Canton Community Association, sent a letter of support in favor of the deal.

Hale, the Baltimore trucking magnate, developer and former CEO of First Mariner Bancorp, says he has moved the Baltimore Blast Corp. and Hale Properties LLC to Edgemere. The businesses employ about 40 people.


Hale invested in air conditioning at Du Burns, for which the city repaid him.

Kraft says the proposed renovations to the field have made the city too eager to agree to a long-term deal.

"This is the tail wagging the dog. This is the same thing that happened to the city with Mr. Hale. They gave him a fantastic deal," Kraft said. "Here, they're getting ready to do the same thing. Instead of having a five-year contract, they're going to have a 20-year contact. They don't learn."

In an unrelated matter, Hale has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the operators of 1st Mariner Arena — now called Royal Farms Arena — alleging that they are using billboards that belong to him. The suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court names as defendants arena operator SMG Holdings of West Conshohocken, Pa., and the advertising firm that replaced him at the arena, Legends Sales and Marketing of Wilmington, Del.

SMG has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A settlement conference on the suit is scheduled for Wednesday.