Baltimore to study $900m arena-convention-hotel project

We haven’t heard much about Baltimore’s plans for a new arena for a few years now, but that seems about to change: The Maryland Stadium Authority is about to conduct a feasibility study of a $900 million plan to build a new arena, a hotel on top of it, and an expanded Baltimore Convention Center.

Willard Hackerman, described by the Baltimore Sun as a “Baltimore construction magnate” (which will always make me think of Stringer Bell), has promised to finance the arena and hotel — or rather, to “engage in creating a private partnership that will privately finance the arena and the hotel,” which isn’t quite the same thing. It’s going to be interesting, to say the least, to see how Hackerman goes about raising private funds to build an arena with no anchor sports tenant, at least until such time that an NBA or NHL team can be identified to relocate there. Did I mention that Hackerman is 92 years old?

In any case, that still leaves the $400 million convention center cost, which as previously established is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on an expanded convention facility unless you’re Las Vegas or Orlando. (Editor’s note: Baltimore is not Las Vegas or Orlando.) Donald Fry, head of the business-run Greater Baltimore Committee that is pushing this plan, told the Sun (in the newspaper’s words) that “he believes the $400 million cost of expanding the convention center could be paid by the city or state or both, by issuing bonds.” Which is identical to telling your mortgage broker, “Sure, I can afford to pay for this house — I’m going to use the money I borrow from you!” Any J-school professors out there who can work on drumming it into budding journalists’ heads that bonds have to be paid off eventually? Please?

Anyway, once someone figures out who’ll pay the $150,000 cost, it looks like we’ll have another study to kick around soon. Which, given how the last Baltimore study turned out, is likely to involve a whole lot of kicking.

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