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BALTIMORE SEEKS TEAM FOR NEW ARENA
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June 10, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures
Baltimore has hired a consultant to locate an NBA team that might want to move into a new arena the city is considering. The city is reportedly talking with the San Antonio Spurs, the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets about a possible move.
A consultant's report recently told city officials that Baltimore's best hopes to land a new NBA or NHL franchise come in spending $200 million to replace its aging sports arena. The current arena, built in 1963, is the home to the NPSL Baltimore Blast. It seats 13,700 for soccer and has no luxury suites or club seats.
The report requested by the city has three options with seating up to 19,000 or as low as 12,000, depending upon whether the city wants to get into the big leagues of basketball or hockey. The report suggests linking the arena with a $350 million redevelopment plan on the downtown's west side. No solid financing plan was presented, but several alternatives were discussed. Some city officials say they would expect the new team to fund at least half the cost of a new arena while others, citing the city's deficit, say the city should not invest any money in the venue.
Some observers also suggest the market for luxury suites in Baltimore is already saturated with offerings from the Oriole's ballpark, the new PSINet Stadium for the Ravens and opportunities to buy suites at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and the MCI Center in nearby Washington.
The Spurs, who lost a bid for a new arena last fall, say they have been contacted by Baltimore officials, but plan to stay in San Antonio. Team officials say they would like to put another issue before voters in January, but they have not received any promises from city officials. The Spurs would like to leave the Alamodome which was originally designed for football.
BUSINESSMAN OFFERS TO BUILD BALTIMORE ARENA
May 26, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Baltimore, Md. - Construction magnate Willard Hackerman has offered to finance and build an 18,500-seat arena in downtown Baltimore, civic leaders say, freeing taxpayers from having to foot the bill and significantly increasing the chances that plans for a $900 million convention center expansion and arena will become a reality, the Baltimore Sun reported.
News of Hackerman's offer was made public at the annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a private business group that has been exploring ways to build an arena that would be combined with an expanded convention center to bolster the city's tourism business.
Hackerman, 92, the president and chief executive officer of the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., attended the meeting, but declined to comment. According to GBC officials, Hackerman has been actively involved in planning for the arena and convention center expansion, and hired Ayers Saint Gross, a Baltimore-based architecture firm, to develop the designs.
GBC leaders also showed preliminary designs demonstrating how a 25-story hotel could rise above the arena and expanded convention center. The proposed construction site is owned partly by Hackerman and partly by the city.
GBC officials and others say that Hackerman has the financial ability to raise private money for both the arena and hotel and that he wants Whiting-Turner to build them.
"Mr. Hackerman has pledged to the governor and the mayor that he will engage in creating a private ... partnership that will privately finance the arena and the hotel," Donald C. Fry, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Baltimore Committee told the Sun. "He sees this as a transformative project that can have a significant impact on downtown Baltimore, and he would like to see that. ... It would result in a great revitalization of the area."
Much of the project's appeal to Hackerman, Fry and others say, is the combination of an arena and an expanded convention center in one location.
"We have an opportunity for Baltimore that we think is unique on the East Coast - the opportunity to put together a conference center with an arena in a way that would allow us to bring in groups that can't come to Baltimore today," Fry said.
"This concept, combined with the nearby baseball and football stadiums, gives us a chance to accomplish a dramatic transformation of the Inner Harbor into a sports, entertainment and recreation venue that would be largely unrivaled in the nation."
While other cities combine arenas and convention centers, none has united facilities the size of those proposed for Baltimore, Adam Gross, Hackerman's architect told the newspaper.
The joint facilities would boost Baltimore's convention business by enabling the expanded convention center to accommodate two or three large shows or meetings at the same time - something it can't do now, Tom Noonan, executive director of Visit Baltimore, the city's convention and tourism agency, told the Sun.
"This would be a hybrid building that doesn't exist anywhere else in the country," Noonan said. "It would give us the opportunity to do a lot of convention business in Baltimore and make us a lot more productive. It would make us really difficult to compete with."
As head of one of the largest construction firms in the country, Hackerman has built many of Baltimore's best-known landmarks, including Harborplace, the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Preliminary plans by Ayers Saint Gross call for a four-level convention center expansion, an 18,500-seat arena over two levels of underground parking, a 500-room hotel, and stores and restaurants facing Pratt, Charles and Conway streets.
The expansion would give Baltimore a convention center with 760,000 square feet of ballroom, meeting and exhibit space, more than twice that of the existing convention center. The estimated price of $900 million to $940 million would make it one of the most expensive projects ever envisioned for downtown Baltimore.
Fry said Hackerman's offer is contingent on the convention center expansion's moving ahead and being connected to the arena to create one project. He said planners would seek city and state funding for the convention center expansion, making the project a public-private partnership.
He said Hackerman's offer to fund the arena privately should make the entire project easier to finance and more likely to move ahead, as funding sources have been identified for more than half the project's total estimated cost.
Based on the preliminary designs, Fry said, the hotel is expected to cost $175 million and the arena $325 million Ð a total of $500 million that would be covered by Hackerman and his investment group. The convention center expansion, which is expected to cost $400 million, would be the only major phase of the project for which a funding source has not been identified.
Fry said that the mayor and governor already have requested that the Maryland Stadium Authority conduct a marketing and economic study of the project, which Fry said he hopes will be completed by the end of the year.
With the results of the feasibility study, Fry said, planners can go to the city and state to seek approval to sell bonds to pay for construction of the publicly funded portion of the project. They also may explore other funding sources, such as selling rights to name the building.
Earlier this year, GBC officials said the arena could be completed by 2016 if construction began in 2012. With Hackerman's support, Fry said, the project could be completed close to the timetable outlined last fall Ñ in about four years for the arena and hotel, and an additional three years for the convention center expansion.
The work requires that the 1979 wing of the convention center be demolished to make way for the expansion, but the 1996 wing could remain in operation.
STATE AUTHORITY APPROVES BALTIMORE VENUE STUDY
June 16, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Baltimore, Md. - The Maryland Stadium Authority agreed to study the feasibility of building a new downtown arena and expanding the Baltimore Convention Center Ð but directors want the city of Baltimore to help pay part of the study's $150,000 cost, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Directors of the state agency voted to approve the request from Gov. Martin O'Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to determine whether the project would be financially viable, and how much tax revenue it could generate. The panel also instructed executive director Michael Frenz to negotiate with city officials to see whether the city would make a "meaningful contribution" toward the cost of the study.
The agency will also ask representatives of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a private business group that supports the $900 million arena and convention center project, to appear at their July meeting to present preliminary plans for it.
The Sun said the action means that the GBC has cleared an important hurdle in its effort to secure public financing to help expand the convention center and attract private funding for an adjacent 18,500-seat arena. The stadium authority has an "on call" consultant, Crossroads Consulting Services of Tampa, Fla., that can take the lead on the study.
The business group unveiled preliminary designs for the project last month and said Baltimore construction magnate Willard Hackerman has pledged to lead a team that would provide private financing for the $325 million arena and a $175 million hotel above it.
That means the group still needs to find a way to pay for a $400 million convention center expansion that would be connected to the arena, the newspaper said.
Donald C. Fry, the GBC's president and chief executive, says he believes the $400 million cost of expanding the convention center could be paid by the city or state or both, by issuing bonds. But he says legislators will first want to see the results of an independent study to determine whether the project is feasible and how much it would generate in taxes.