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WITH ALL the talk about where to...


WITH ALL the talk about where to locate off-track betting establishments, and with much of the city's civic leadership agreed that gambling should not be allowed to pollute the waters of the Inner Harbor, one prime location so far has been overlooked: Fort Carroll.

This three-and-a-half acre site, seven miles from the Inner Harbor in the Patapsco River, is an ideal place for a palatial OTB emporium-restaurant. It has history. It has a sense of adventure. It would be off-beat. And it would give patrons a sense of getting away from it all.

Think of it: You board a harbor cruise ship or a luxury hover craft at the Inner Harbor, or Fort Armistead Park, or somewhere along Bear Creek near Dundalk.

In a short time, you are docking at Fort Carroll, the brooding, gray granite walls and empty gun ports greeting you upon your arrival. The old fort, restored on the outside to resemble its original state in the 1840s, when it was built under the supervision of a U.S. Army colonel named Robert E. Lee, is an eerily imposing sight.

Within the fort, though, is a magnificent glass-enclosed lobby leading to a large, two-story amphitheater for viewing horse races on giant movie screens. The lobby is crammed with the latest in high-tech gadgetry to give patrons data and visual images of the past records of the horses running that day (or night).

The escalator on the other side of the lobby takes visitors to the two dining establishments: one, a tasteful cafeteria with a broad variety of pleasing entrees and comfortable surroundings; the other, a gourmet restaurant with a spectacular view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the Patapsco, the huge Sparrows Point steel complex and ships heading up the Chesapeake to Baltimore.

All this at Fort Carroll, just minutes away -- yet a world away from your daily routine.

It's a natural. But it would take a daring entrepreneur to pull it off. Any takers?

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