“Privately financed” Baltimore arena would need public funds

So as you may recall, a 93-year-old Baltimore developer wants to build a new $500 million arena and hotel complex, alongside a $400 million convention center expansion that would be paid for by taxpayers. The arena/hotel, though, would be privately financed … except, now, for the bit where it wouldn’t actually be privately financed:

Donald C. Fry, CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said his group still hopes to secure the necessary funds to privately finance both the arena and the hotel at the corner of Charles and Conway streets. But Fry, whose group is leading the fundraising efforts for the project, acknowledged public dollars may be needed…

“There is no doubt it is going to require some city and state financial commitment for the entire project, and maybe even the arena possibly,” Fry said.

Still, it’s tough to argue with the fact that Baltimore needs a new arena, as the old one is 50 years old and is, er, the top-grossing arena in the U.S. for its size? But anyway, without a new arena Baltimore will surely lose the, um, I mean, won’t be able to lure a, wait a minute. Does anybody remember why Baltimore supposedly needs a new arena?

“They’re doing a remarkable job. We just wonder how much better SMG could be doing with a bigger-size” arena, [Visit Baltimore CEO Tom] Noonan said.

Now there’s a question worth $900 million to answer.

5 comments on ““Privately financed” Baltimore arena would need public funds

  1. Baltimore, by wikipedia, is the 24th most populous city in the US, ahead of NBA and NHL cities like Nashville, Washington, Atlanta, Cleveland and MInneapolis, among others. (but its smaller than Houston and Seattle — no NHL team — Jacksonville and San Diego. It has a pretty shoddy record as a pro sports town, but as we’ve seen with Denver and even Chicago, times (and ownership) changes everything. Certainly they’d need to show they would support an AHL team before the NHL would ever look there, but there seems to always be a need for another “we could move our team there if you don’t buck up” option for ransom, er, arena negotiations. That Atlantic seaboard is awfully crowded, ain’t it?

  2. Baltimore is 40 miles up the road from DC, so any NHL/NBA threating/trying to move there will have to pay a territorial free to Ted Leonsis (Wizards/Caps owner).

  3. danny-o

    You need to look at MSAs not city populations. Cities have widely different practices as far as jurisdictions go, some include what would be inner suburbs, some don’t, some are quite large, some are quite compact. Minneapolis only has ~400k ppl, but it borders Saint Paul which has ~350k, and about 15 suburbs with 20-100k a piece. Then there are more beyond that. The metro area is a little above 3 million (bigger than Baltimore).

    Minneapolis also has a large corporate culture than Baltimore and higher incomes.Minneapolis/Saint Paul is like the 15th biggest market or so.

    And Washington and Atlanta are WAY WAY bigger markets than Baltimore.

  4. The worst part about the story, if memory serves, is that Baltimore is already in hock to support an additional “hotel/convention center” downtown that ruined a perfectly good view from Camden Yards but continues to suffer from somewhat lower occupancy than projected. Certainly, nothing happening in Baltimore suggests spending an additional $500 million is justified.

    It is a nice, blue-collar town but with large pockets of poverty and it is a smaller city. Definitely an upgrade for the St. Louis Browns but not a place that can support 3 sports teams.

  5. And the First Mariner arena just snagged the Colonial Atheltic Association’s Men’s Basketball tournament starting in 2014.

    Further proof that the venue is antiquated and cannot compete.