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New arena seen at current spot

The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Development Corp. is expected to announce today that it has narrowed the list of potential sites for a new arena, and several developers believe the current location of the 1st Mariner Arena will be chosen for the new venue.

Many of the city's most prominent developers have proposed building a new arena outside downtown, such as in Canton, on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, or near M&T; Bank Stadium. But support appears to be growing for constructing an arena on its current location, on West Baltimore Street downtown.

This month, Mayor Sheila Dixon said she prefers keeping the arena downtown - a strong indication it will go there.

Yesterday, developers Ed Hale and Patrick Turner said they expected the BDC, which has been reviewing arena proposals since last fall, to reject the nondowntown locations. Hale, who owns the Baltimore Blast soccer team, had proposed building the arena on 28 acres in Canton, near Interstate 95. He said he was not invited to this afternoon's news conference at BDC headquarters.

Likewise, Turner, who proposed including the arena in his $1.4 billion Westport development on the Middle Branch, said he has had no contact with the BDC.

Samuel Polakoff had wanted the arena to be part of his Gateway South development, an 11-acre sports-theme project south of M&T; Bank Stadium. Yesterday, Polakoff said he had not been in contact with the BDC lately. "I would think if it was going to my site, I would have heard something ahead of time," he said.

Officials with the BDC and the city would not comment yesterday. They are not expected today to announce a final selection of one of the seven proposals submitted last fall. The state, city and Maryland Stadium Authority would all be involved in the ultimate selection, as well as in helping arrange financing for what is expected to be a $200 million facility.

Rather, it is likely that today the BDC will ask developers to come up with proposals for a specific location and give guidelines on what should be included in each proposal. Selecting the current site of the 46-year-old 1st Mariner Arena would leave the city without an arena for at least three years while the 1st Mariner is torn down and a new arena constructed.

Hale said that would be a disaster. "So many people would be damaged by this because of the inability to have the arena open, to play [sports] games, to bring in concerts, to have the circus," he said. "I don't know of a place where we [the Blast] could play. So I think that we're out of business."

City officials have said alternative locations could be found for the Blast and other users of the arena while a new one is built.

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