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A New Arena for Baltimore?


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#21 DJ MC

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 03:40 PM

Nah, that's not fair. Now is now, then was then. And back then the Civic Center was a visionary part of a very visionary phase around Charles Center. It was also a big phase of Rouse getting cranked up.

Back then, multi-purpose was a forward looking idea. It opened in the early '60's but was one of the results of a mid-50's effort of civic leaders to bring and keep life in the City, the Greater Baltimore Committee. That whole effort was the same kind of "for the greater good" thinking that got civic leaders behind the idea of buying the St. Louis Browns. Fortunately, their focus on redevelopment was way ahead of its time. By the time Charles Center happened, the City really, really needed a shot in the arm. The only reason it happened was because they started, not just noodling, but doing actual planning back in the 50's, which was way before the idea of "Urban Planning" really existed. The Inner Harbor was like Phase II of that project. It had credibility mostly because the whole Charles Center thing worked as well as it did.

Now, it is true that people could and did critique the design of the Civic Center from the get-go. Various details about it could have been better. But how much did anybody really know about arena design then? And it definitely would have been crazy to build a 17,000+ seat arena back then. Nobody went to basketball games then like they do now. Nobody could fill a concert hall then like they do now. Almost nobody had big-crowd things like they do now.


Then why build a 14,500-seat concert hall? That's essentially what the arena is.

I realize that I'm looking at this from a modern perspective, and things were very different back then in terms of civic planning (this was the same group of people that was going to build I-95 through Fells Point, across the Inner Harbor and through Federal Hill). However, there are plenty of examples of arenas built in that era (and even well beforehand) that could be used for many purposes but were designed in a fashion more like modern buildings, and with large capacities.

#22 RShack

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Posted 24 June 2012 - 12:25 AM

Then why build a 14,500-seat concert hall? That's essentially what the arena is.

I realize that I'm looking at this from a modern perspective, and things were very different back then in terms of civic planning (this was the same group of people that was going to build I-95 through Fells Point, across the Inner Harbor and through Federal Hill). However, there are plenty of examples of arenas built in that era (and even well beforehand) that could be used for many purposes but were designed in a fashion more like modern buildings, and with large capacities.

Well, I'm not exactly sure what about it you think should have been different, given what folks knew at the time. IIRC, it was about 20 years after the place was built before I heard anything about the capacity being an issue. I still say it would have been crazy for them to size it to 17,000+ back when they designed the place, there was no reason to think that would be worthwhile. What else? You mentioned the stage, but I never saw any problem with that. It wasn't crazy at the time to think that a multipurpose place should have a stage. They put scaffolded seats on it and turned it into more stands when the situation called for it.

The main thing I thought they did wrong was not pay enough attention to site lines. Or maybe nobody south of the Mason-Dixon Line ever thought about ice hockey when they designed the place. IIRC, there were some issues with the upper level not being able to see the nearest part of the rink... but this was back when the Clippers were the AHL team, which means it's been ages ago, and I could be wrong about the details.

Anyway, I don't know very much about arena design... and even if I did, I wonder if using the word "arena" to describe it isn't filtering things through modern eyeballs. They didn't call it the Civic Arena, they called it the Civic Center, which means it was supposed to do lots of different stuff, of which basketball was just one element. You gotta remember that, back when it opened, the NBA itself was no big deal except in a couple cities. Even Chicago didn't care about having an NBA team, which is how we got the Bullets. I associate the advent of megabuck sports with the time people started thinking in terms of whiz-bang skybox arenas, but I could be wrong about that. The Civic Center was a late-50's design. If other cities had great multipurpose facility designs from that era, I don't know about it. (Not saying other cities didn't, just saying I don't know about them.)

I do think the Greater Baltimore Committee had proper civic motivation and did do a lot of valuable things. I could be wrong, but I kinda get the vibe that you're focusing on the ways that their crystal ball wasn't very good, while ignoring the ways that they did important visionary ground-breaking things. As for Fells Point, maybe you don't remember, but they had to *give* the houses there away for $1 because absolutely nobody wanted them. Same thing for Federal Hill. I'm not mad at anybody for not seeing that revival coming, I'm just glad that when the dust settled a lot of the old stuff got saved... which is a lot more than we can say for Atlanta where they put 2 friggin' Interstates right down the middle and lost *all* the old stuff (except about half a block of it). A big part of the reason the tide of opinion turned in Baltimore, which is what allowed the old stuff to get saved, is the good stuff the Greater Baltimore Committee did do. If you wanna say their vision was a mixed bag, well, I'm fine with that. As with most things, you win some, you lose some.

 "You say you've lost your faith, but that's not where its at.

  You have no faith to lose, and ya know it" - Bob Dylan


#23 BSLChrisStoner

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 05:56 PM

Reading the comments about Seattle's Arena plans, and hoping Baltimore can pick up the pace with theirs.

#24 BSLChrisStoner

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 09:46 PM

Baltimore Business Journal 5/15: Less than half of money needed for Baltimore arena projected raised
http://www.bizjourna...needed-for.html

Haven't seen a story since this May 15th article. Has anyone else?

#25 DJ MC

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 08:35 PM

http://www.baltimore... ... full.story

Fifty years after it opened, Baltimore's area is one of the most profitable in the world in its class. In the 12-month period after November 2010, 1st Mariner Arena's total gross sales were nearly $16 million, making it the seventh-highest-grossing arena in the world that seats between 10,000 and 15,000 people.

But in spite of its success, 1st Mariner Arena is in a period of transition that could lead, in the near future, to the arena's being renamed, handed off to a new management company — or even demolished.



#26 NewMarketSean

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 08:33 AM

In a city where they want to preserve the derelict former drug store Read's, because there was once a civil rights sit in there -- and there is even a contingency of people who want to preserve the defunct, ugly and useless Mechanic Theater because of its brutalist architecture, color me skeptical on the arena ever getting fully demolished. MLK spoke there, the Beatles performed there...it's "too important a historical landmark" to be demolished.

The fact that this arena is 50 years old, and was out of date 30 years ago should tell you something about progress and forward thinking in Baltimore.

It's not a horrible place to watch a concert and at least they can still make it turn a profit, but it's still a blemish on this city IMO.
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#27 DuffMan

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 08:52 AM

With construction of a new arena considered unlikely before 2016, the current facility would need to suffice for several more years.


Ugh, I really wonder if this is ever going to get done.

#28 BSLChrisStoner

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 08:31 PM

Baltimore Business Journal: Funding is the big-money question for new downtown arena
http://www.bizjourna...estion-for.html

#29 BSLMikeLowe

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 11:06 PM

Baltimore Business Journal: Funding is the big-money question for new downtown arena
http://www.bizjourna...estion-for.html


Well, at least it sounds like someone is actually doing something to try and make this happen. Given the lack of discussion heard in the media about it, you would think the proposal has simply been sitting in a file cabinet collecting dust.

#30 DuffMan

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:52 AM

Yes or No, Do we see a new arena finished by the end of this decade?

I say no.

#31 BSLChrisStoner

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:59 AM

Yes or No, Do we see a new arena finished by the end of this decade?

I say no.


By the end of the decade? I'll say yes, but I do think it will be near the end of the decade as opposed to '16 or '17.

#32 NewMarketSean

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 09:28 AM

Put me down as a no as well. The city is just too divided to get anything done. Even when it's getting a sweetheart deal.
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#33 DJ MC

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 02:55 PM

Seven years is a long time. That's how long they give cities to prepare for the Olympics.

The present arena is now in its 51st year, in a world where twenty years is old for an arena and forty is almost unheard-of outside of the most-celebrated buildings. Most of those buildings end up with extensive renovations, too.

I think this is more with my heart than my head, but yes, there will be a new arena open in Baltimore by New Year's Day, 2020. At the very least, it will be part of the plan to rebuild and expand the convention center. Possibly in an expanded "Camden Yards" down the Middle Branch to Westport with the casino and a soccer stadium. Either way, it will get done.

#34 NewMarketSean

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:03 PM

The problem is Hackerman is old and he wont live for much longer. If his deal to finance a chunk of the new arena and hotel will expire upon his death, then forget about it.
I never had friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?

#35 BSLMikeLowe

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:06 PM

So many things can happen in such a short time that would impact a project like this. The fact that it only exists on a drawing board right now and that the biggest hurdle (funding) has yet to be cleared does not leave me with optimism. But like I said earlier, it is good to hear that there are people who seem to be actively working on this, and that the proposal isn't just sitting there to die on the vine.

My prediction is this....either there will be a new arena in Baltimore by 2020 (or at least construction will have begun) or it probably won't happen in any of our lifetimes.

#36 DJ MC

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:21 PM

So many things can happen in such a short time that would impact a project like this. The fact that it only exists on a drawing board right now and that the biggest hurdle (funding) has yet to be cleared does not leave me with optimism. But like I said earlier, it is good to hear that there are people who seem to be actively working on this, and that the proposal isn't just sitting there to die on the vine.

My prediction is this....either there will be a new arena in Baltimore by 2020 (or at least construction will have begun) or it probably won't happen in any of our lifetimes.

The thing is, it HAS to happen at some point. The current arena will become too expensive to renovate, and there will have to be a building to showcase concerts and the circus and ice events and everything else that makes a lot of money for this building. That facility can't simply cease to exist in a region of Baltimore's size. The question is whether it will happen on its own, or whether something will have to happen (cost analysis, wide-spread cancellations, even structural failure) to force the hand of the city.

#37 BSLMikeLowe

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:35 PM

The thing is, it HAS to happen at some point. The current arena will become too expensive to renovate, and there will have to be a building to showcase concerts and the circus and ice events and everything else that makes a lot of money for this building. That facility can't simply cease to exist in a region of Baltimore's size. The question is whether it will happen on its own, or whether something will have to happen (cost analysis, wide-spread cancellations, even structural failure) to force the hand of the city.


Not to steer the discussion too far off topic, but I just think that as time goes by it is going to become more and more difficult to devote public money to projects of this nature. Our infrastructure is starting to crumble, and municipalities are finding it more and more difficult find (borrow) the money just to keep up. That's only going to get worse in the future, IMO. And while a major city like Baltimore should have a decent indoor sports/entertainment venue, I think as things get worse it will slide further down the priority list. So of the things you mentioned at the end, it just might have to reach the point where the current arena falls to pieces before something happens beyond the current initiative.

#38 DJ MC

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:09 PM

Not to steer the discussion too far off topic, but I just think that as time goes by it is going to become more and more difficult to devote public money to projects of this nature. Our infrastructure is starting to crumble, and municipalities are finding it more and more difficult find (borrow) the money just to keep up. That's only going to get worse in the future, IMO. And while a major city like Baltimore should have a decent indoor sports/entertainment venue, I think as things get worse it will slide further down the priority list. So of the things you mentioned at the end, it just might have to reach the point where the current arena falls to pieces before something happens beyond the current initiative.

I think that's possible, and part of why it should get done sooner rather than later.

But I feel that an arena is different from most other kinds of venues, because they can be used for so many different things. Not just professional sports, but as a concert hall and auditorium, as a meeting place for organizations, as an arena for minor sporting events that draw crowds (wrestling, boxing, motocross), and so on. An arena is a valuable public space in ways that stadia simply cannot be.

#39 BSLMikeLowe

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:24 PM

I think that's possible, and part of why it should get done sooner rather than later.

But I feel that an arena is different from most other kinds of venues, because they can be used for so many different things. Not just professional sports, but as a concert hall and auditorium, as a meeting place for organizations, as an arena for minor sporting events that draw crowds (wrestling, boxing, motocross), and so on. An arena is a valuable public space in ways that stadia simply cannot be.


I do agree, it is a multi-purpose venue, so this isn't just a sports thing. I mentioned it earlier in this thread, but if Baltimore had such a facility it would be awesome for the city if they could land something like one of the big political conventions in an election year. But the reality is that it does take a backseat to the basic infrastructure necessary for the day-to-day functioning of a city. And that's why I think if this current initiative fails, it will be exponentially more difficult to get it done in the future.

#40 NewMarketSean

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 04:36 PM

The thing is, it HAS to happen at some point. The current arena will become too expensive to renovate, and there will have to be a building to showcase concerts and the circus and ice events and everything else that makes a lot of money for this building. That facility can't simply cease to exist in a region of Baltimore's size. The question is whether it will happen on its own, or whether something will have to happen (cost analysis, wide-spread cancellations, even structural failure) to force the hand of the city.


I want a new arena as much as anyone but this is Baltimore, where democrats rule the city but can't agree on what color the harbor water is.

First Mariner arena is paid off and still makes tons of money. Any renovations would be paid for from a surplus of money and not be borrowed against a current debt. It handles concerts fine, and the circus still comes to Baltimore, every year. Even if we get a new arena it's no guarantee that the old one gets torn down either. Knowing this city, preservationists would fight it's destruction. The Beatles did play there after all. Preservationists also want to keep the Mechanic...which has been vacant for years and looks like something even communist Russia wouldn't build.

The economy sucks right now, and I guess the city cant even afford a new arena even when private money is going to help build a chunk of it. They could afford that eyesore Hilton, though!
I never had friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?




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