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Downtown arena, west side project could work...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Downtown arena, west side project could work together

The Sun's article "Study rebuts NBA effect" (Sept. 28) detailed the findings of a study conducted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) which concluded an NBA team in a new Baltimore arena would have a negative impact on Baltimore's economy.

I strongly disagree with those findings. My firm, the Goal Group, supervised a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers's (PWC) study that concluded that a new arena -- with or without an NBA tenant -- would bring significant economic benefits.

Walk along downtown streets during an Orioles' game and tell me sports facilities create no economic impact. Restaurants and stores are packed before and after every game, light rail cars overflow and parking lot operators are flush.

Are we to believe that all those people would be spending every single one of these dollars downtown anyway?

Arenas offer a wide variety of events besides sports -- including concerts, family shows and conferences. The recent run of Sesame Street Live at the Baltimore Arena, for example, drew 27,000 people downtown.

A new downtown arena would bring more events and more people. Together with the Hippodrome Theater project on the west side, it could generate tremendous foot traffic, not just during the baseball season but all year.

But the UMBC study does not even consider the economic impact of non-sports events.

The UMBC study also does not consider the economic impact of direct spending, total output, jobs or overall earnings at the state and local levels. The PWC study analyzed these factors in detail.

And PWC's findings of positive economic impact are conservative because they were adjusted downward so as not to include spending that is simply diverted from other local activities.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards and PSINet Stadium are assets that have helped Baltimore become a major destination city for travelers. Whether or not they attend a game, these visitors stay in our hotels, dine in our restaurants and spend money in a variety of facilities.

Baltimore's current arena is the oldest among the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas. With our Olympics bid just two years away, and with new development planned for the west side, now is the time to begin developing a new arena.

Lena Perna Clifton, Va..

The writer is managing director of Goal Group.

Preserve the west side, maintain city's character

It is unfortunate that The Sun believes there's a "blockbuster brewing" on downtown Baltimore's west side ("Blockbuster brewing on Howard Street," editorial, Sept. 30). What's really brewing is the tasteless commercialization of a once proud city.

The west side of downtown is home to a world-class collection of historic buildings and a diverse group of students, artists and working families. It is close to museums, art galleries and downtown jobs.

If saved from the wrecking ball and renovated, this neighborhood could be a diverse, vibrant link between Mount Vernon, University Center and the harbor.

Creating large, suburban-style retail projects on the west side, such as those proposed by the Weinberg Foundation and Grid Properties, would only hurt a city that prides itself on "charm."

Baltimore needs to preserve and beautify what it has left. Making the west side a safe and diverse cultural and historic district should be a priority for the city's next mayor.

Otherwise the city will lose yet another precious piece of its fading character.

Richard Chambers Jr. Glen Burnie

Post office should call development 'Greedville'

I was amused by The Sun's article "Columbia neighborhood covets Clarksville ZIP" (Oct. 5).

Homeowners in the Pointers Overlook community bought houses in Columbia at Columbia prices -- and now want the post office to change their ZIP code to Clarksville. This so they can sell at Clarksville's prices, which are almost double those in Columbia. What a scam.

This reminds me of people who buy cheap residential property near land zoned industrial and then try to have the zoning changed, or the existing industry shut down, so the value of their property will rapidly increase.

I think the post office should not only give these people a new ZIP code, they should give them their own ZIP code for a new community.

The new community could be called Greedville or Scamtown.

Dixon L. Wood Edgewater

Don't downplay nuclear dangers

The Sun's choice of what is important on Oct. 1 missed the boat, as far as I am concerned. Burying the story of the Japanese nuclear accident on page 18 that day was a dismal decision.

Underreporting the nuclear industry's messes does us a disservice. It continues the fiction that all is well with this industry and its safety record.

Let's do better, and keep the American people rightly informed of the dangers we constantly face from the nuclear industry.

Jane Jacksteit Havre de Grace

State's employers face rising health care costs

I would like to clarify some remarks The Sun attributed to John Colmer, executive director of the Maryland Health Care Commission, in an article about the state's uninsured ("Maryland ranks near top in growth of uninsured," Oct. 5).

In the article, Mr. Colmer explained that small businesses can pool employees to get better insurance rates.

But in Maryland, small employers are considered one risk pool in calculating community insurance rates, and no individual employer can be rated based on the health of its employees.

Each employer's community rate is adjusted based on the ages of its covered employees.

It is not possible for small employers to band together and pool their employees to lower the average age or to gain more negotiating power.

The notion that this system results in "better rates" for Maryland's small employers would come as a surprise to the majority of our clients -- employers who are suffering 20 to 45 percent increases in health care costs each year.

Jill Smelgus Timonium

The writer is a broker for Steinhardt & Steinhardt Group Insurance.

On Oct. 4, The Sun had an interesting front page article "Health care gap grows."

On the last page of the same section was a full-page advertisement for an HMO.

Isn't that interesting?

Dr. Marcio V. Pinheiro Sykesville

Hagerstown museum is worth an excursion

In the face of political issues and the city's woes, could we take a moment to enjoy the beauty in our state?

I recently visited the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, and felt as though I had discovered a hidden treasure.

This relatively small museum contained one of the best exhibitions of traditional art I've seen in many years.

The paintings were by John Bannon, who was born and educated in Baltimore and now resides in Fairfax Station, Va. The 27 paintings on display, mostly landscapes of the capital area and Chesapeake Bay, are in the tradition of the Old Masters.

I think Marylanders would enjoy these treasures. And the museum itself is nestled by a lake in a beautiful setting.

I hope readers will take a jaunt to Hagerstown and enjoy these fine works and this splendid museum.

Flo Ayres Baltimore

To our readers

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