Deep Thoughts on New Arena

May 05, 2007 |

I love Baltimore.  I’ve lived here basically my entire life.  I’ve worked with my family business for the past fourteen years, primarily in downtown Baltimore.  And I’m always proud of driving around the metro area and seeing all the buildings that rest on my company’s deep foundations.  The Marriott Inner Harbor East, Spinnaker Bay, Bond Street Wharf, the new O’Donnell Street Bridge, Mercy Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Reginald F. Lewis African American Museum.  That’s just a very small sampling of the types of projects my company gets involved in, and those jobs all took place in the last eight years!  Baltimore is booming, folks. 

So yesterday afternoon, as my crew was pouring the concrete for a new foundation for the Four Seasons Hotel at Inner Harbor East, I took a few moments to soak in the beauty of our wonderful downtown.  I looked directly across the Inner Harbor at the Ritz-Carlton that’s under construction.  I looked towards Harborplace and the Galleria and the heart of the downtown business district.  I turned to the southeast and gazed towards Fells Point and Canton.  And I thought about listening to Rob Long’s show the other afternoon when talk turned to the 1st Mariner Arena.

No offense to anybody associated with that structure, but the place is a dump.  It was one when it first opened, and it will always be one.  Whoever the architects were, they clearly didn’t understand sports or entertainment.  I mean, one end of the place is completely unusable because it has a stage!  What?

Much of the debate on Rob’s show centered on the neighborhood surrounding the Arena.  I couldn’t help but think to myself that the neighborhood is the last thing I consider when debating the idea of going there for a concert or game.  The first thing I consider is the dullness of the place.  The building itself is dingy, uninspiring and outdated.  The Arena is like your crazy uncle; you know you’re going to see him at family gatherings, holidays, etc., but you do your best to avoid conversation or contact with him.  With M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park, Baltimore is home to two Crown Jewels of 21st Century stadia.  So what can be done to provide a modern indoor facility in town?

And if one is built, what’s the purpose?  We have no NHL or NBA team, and I don’t think we’ll ever get one.  I don’t think Baltimore would support either league.  Besides Nestor and my friend Brock, I don’t know any other hockey fans in town.  As great a basketball city as Baltimore is, I cannot foresee any NBA franchise moving here.  Not without a shiny modern arena.

Where would a new indoor arena be built?  I’ve heard Ed Hale is exploring the idea in Canton.  Not a bad start, but I wonder if it’s the best possible location.  I remember hearing discussions a few years ago about tearing down the current atrocity and rebuilding there.  Not bad, but probably not feasible due to the size a modern building would take up in real estate.  Just not enough room there.  But there’s one location I’ve always thought would be ideal: the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

Think about it.  Horse racing is dying a slow and ugly death here.  Pimlico and Laurel host all the dates except for about eight days, when they run at Timonium during the State Fair.  The site of the racetrack is certainly a large enough area to build a modern indoor arena on, there’s public transportation out back with the light rail, and there’s plenty of parking lots on the north end by the exhibit buildings.  Timonium sits at the top of the metro area, easily accessible from all points of the metropolitan area and just a mile north of the Beltway and I-83.  Every time I drive past and look at that ancient racetrack and grandstand, I’m reminded of another waste of prime real estate: 1st Mariner Arena.

So my plan is this: Tear down that grandstand and track, build a sparkling new arena with all the modern amenities, and start pushing for Final Fours and other major league franchises.  Then tear down the downtown eyesore and build a brand new building with offices, condos, retail and parking.  It could serve as the southern end of the West Side redevelopment currently taking place.

And if you need pricing for the deep foundations on both structures, just drop me a line at mark@wnst.net.

 

 

Quick programming note:  Family matters this weekend, so Thyrl Nelson will be in tomorrow for me following Loyola College lacrosse.  The following Saturday, May 12, will be the first full 1 – 4 p.m. edition of Such on Sports.  I can’t wait!

 

 

Dominican wins the Kentucky Derby.  You read it here first.

 

 

Back with more thoughts later this weekend.  Now go outside and enjoy this beautiful spring weather!!

Such

 

 

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