City entertains idea for new arena

The Baltimore Sun

Following through on their desire to replace the 45-year-old 1st Mariner Arena, Baltimore officials are seeking development teams interested in building a new entertainment venue.

The Baltimore Development Corp. is asking for teams interested in financing, designing and constructing a new arena to submit proposals by Oct. 30.

The agency is asking for an arena of 15,000 to 16,000 seats with 10 to 20 suites and 1,000 to 2,000 club seats. Developers are being urged to include "vibrant retail or other activity to enhance the street-level experience even when the arena does not have an event."

A recent report commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority concluded that to stay competitive, Baltimore needs a larger, more modern arena.

The study rejected the idea of repairing 1st Mariner's aging systems, which could cost nearly $60 million. Instead, it recommends demolishing the arena and building a bigger one on the same site or elsewhere.

Built in 1962 as the Baltimore Civic Center, 1st Mariner Arena is owned by the city and managed by SMG, a corporation based in Philadelphia. The arena was last renovated more than 20 years ago.

Officials are giving developers the choice of building a venue on the site of the old arena or finding a new site elsewhere in the city. In addition to including street-level stores with the arena, developers are being encouraged to consider adding restaurants and housing to the complex.

Hoping that the private sector will bear the brunt of the estimated $162 million construction cost, the BDC's advertisement suggests that developers consider donating all or part of the site; contributing parking, concessions, retail and housing revenue; committing to lease suites and club seats; and selling the venue's naming rights.

Officials have also specified what they would require for developers who would propose building an arena in a different location. The site must be at least 4 acres, it must be close to public transportation and it must blend into the surrounding neighborhood.

If developers choose to build at the current arena site, they must be able to tell BDC how they would manage the scheduled sports and entertainment programming during the demolition and construction time.

BDC expects to select a team in the first quarter of next year.

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