Plans to turn the city's hulking Inner Harbor Power Plant into a sports entertainment center have fallen through, leaving city officials searching for another prospective tenant for Baltimore's most visible vacant building.
Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the developers of Sports Center USA failed to get financing for the $33 million sports entertainment complex that had been planned for Pier 4 along Pratt Street downtown.
The Schmoke administration will advertise for another project to fill the cavernous turn-of-century building, last rented by Six Flags, which ran an entertainment center and disco in the building before that operation went of business five years ago.
Mr. Schmoke said his administration has received several informal proposals for the building, including solicitations from gambling casinos, but that he will not accept any bids from casinos for the Power Plant.
"I don't think that's the appropriate site," the mayor said at a news briefing yesterday. Casino gambling has not been authorized in the state. I don't want to hold up consideration of proposals while we wait to see what develops in the legislature in the next session.
"I see a great deal of urgency moving ahead," said the mayor. He said he wants new proposals within 90 days.
Mr. Schmoke would not identify specific developers who are interested in the Power Plant, but he said they range from office use to entertainment-style restaurants.
The old Power Plant, known for its four enormous smokestacks towering over the Inner Harbor, was built between 1900 and 1909 by United Railways and Electric Co. to supply electricity to Baltimore's streetcars.
Yesterday, Lynda O'Dea, a developer and president of Sports Center USA, said her group of investors was unable to come up with the last $5 million needed to develop the project.
"I'm disappointed. It's a wonderful site for the project," Ms. O'Dea said.
The development would have included life-size simulated sports events, restaurants and retail stores selling sports-related goods.
Her partnership has formed a computer software company to develop the sports attractions, which would include a life-size film of a sports game in which people can participate.
"It's like getting in the video game, only with real film," she said, adding that a participant would have a hockey stick and puck and would play along with a computer-generated film of real players.
Ms. O'Dea said her group might resurrect its proposal for the Power Plant if it is able to try out its concept elsewhere first to interest more investors. She said her company is trying to test market the sports games in two smaller settings outside Baltimore, which she would not identify.
If that effort is successful, she said, the company might find it easier to get financing with a proven product and open in Baltimore after all.
Her partners include Henry Rosenberg, chairman of Crown Central Petroleum Corp.; John Paterakis, owner of H&S; Bakery; Joseph A. DeFrancis, owner of the Laurel and Pimlico racetracks; and comic book magnate Stephen A. Geppi.