Back in 1962, the Baltimore Civic Center opened for business. Today, that same building is called the 1st Mariner Arena. Arenas around the country have come and gone, but here in Baltimore, the fossil on Baltimore Street still stands.
A few weeks ago on the Rex & Ray Show, Rex Snider and I got on the topic of a new downtown arena. Through the years, the people of Baltimore talked about the need for a new arena. I will not disagree with that. However, I would like to mention a few selfish reasons why Baltimore doesn’t necessarily need an expensive state-of-the-art building.
For old time’s sake, I will even refer to it as the Civic Center. Sorry, it is kind of hard to call something by a different name after calling it something else for 20+ years.
The Concerts: The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, George Strait, Jay-Z, U2 and Miley Cyrus have all made the Civic Center a tour stop over the past few years. These acts are currently selling out arenas and stadiums all over the world. I understand that some of these acts added Baltimore onto the last leg of their tours, but they still stopped in Charm City.
By the way, Billboard magazine recently named the Civic Center (I mean, the 1st Mariner Arena), the top arena of its size in the United States.
The History: With all of the new arenas around the country, Baltimore is one of the only old buildings left standing. That can be a positive for sentimental reasons. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley played on that eyesore that we refer to as the permanent stage.
Springsteen was able to play a building that he played 35 years ago. Van Halen with David Lee Roth reunited on a stage that they last played on 25 years before. Motley Crue stood on the stage where they recorded “Jailhouse Rock Live” 22 years earlier.
Events of all types have taken place in those ancient walls, from a stirring 1966 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to basketball’s 1969 NBA All-Star Game, and even pro wrestling – including a NWA title change in 1990, when Sting beat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
I am a fan of pop culture and history, and the history made in the that building is pretty cool.
Easy Access: It only takes me five minutes to get there. It is centrally located in the heart of downtown. The light rail drops you off at the front door. I-95 puts you right there. There are plenty of parking lots surrounding the building. Plus, the Inner Harbor, Little Italy, Fells Point, Canton and Federal Hill are all a short walk or cab ride away. Dinner, nightclubs and things to do are right there for me before and after an event.
The Memories: I remember shaking Andre the Giant’s hand, going to the Jim Crockett Memorial Cup, seeing the Harlem Globetrotters, taking in a Skipjacks game on a Saturday night, watching Dominique Wilkins windmill dunk on a fast break against the Bullets, seeing my first concert, getting a chance to see Stan “The Man” Stamenkovic run circles around everyone for the Blast and taking my daughter to her first circus. I could go on and on.
Again, Baltimore could definitely use a new arena, but I don’t recall a single time when I sat in that building watching an event and saying to myself, “Man, this building sucks.” Regardless whether you think the same way I do or not, the Civic Center/1st Mariner Arena is uniquely Baltimore.
What is your opinion on a downtown arena? Keep the old building, or build a new one? Tell me what you think below in the comments section & listen to the “Rex & Ray Show” weekday afternoons from 2-6 pm.