Baltimore arena has leaky roof, might as well tear it down and build a new one

Slow news day on the stadium front, and a busy one for me as I enter the home stretch for Brooklyn Wars, but I don’t want to leave you with nothing for today. So here’s a sports blogger from Baltimore taking advantage of that city’s upcoming mayoral election to argue that Baltimore needs a new arena, because, well:

Considering the building has showcased five Garth Brooks shows, the return of Bruce Springsteen to Charm City, a major regular-season men’s college basketball game (the highly ranked Terps hosted Princeton in December), Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Prince, Stevie Wonder, a UFC pay-per-view and much more in recent years, it isn’t hard to understand why some might wonder if the city really does even need a new facility.

(We do. The water damage on the ceiling tiles above me in the 200 section from where I watched the Terps down the Tigers in December reminded me that, yes, yes, we do.)

For anyone who insists that the sports stadium subsidy landscape has shifted, here we have a grown man arguing that the mayor of a major American city needs to make tearing down the local sports arena and building a new one, at uncertain cost, solely because the ceiling leaks. (Okay, he also argues that a new arena might attract more college basketball and an Outkast reunion tour — your call which of those is more likely to happen.) We still have a ways to go.

25 comments on “Baltimore arena has leaky roof, might as well tear it down and build a new one

  1. For what it’s worth the current mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, was subject to an ethics probe because the arena gave the mayor and her friends free tickets for every event at the arena. The ethics board concluded “that’s fine, whatever, but you should probably, you know, have a record of how many tickets and who got them.”

    The current leader in the polls for the next mayor is Rawlings-Blake’s predecessor, Sheila Dixon, who was previously convicted of stealing gift cards from poor children.

    …in short, I’m certain there will be a new arena. The corruption possibilities are endless.

  2. “Grown man?” As research and car insurers have pointed out, the judgment center of the brain does not fully develop until mid or late twenties. For some, maybe it takes longer, and maybe many enter politics prematurely.

  3. Detroit, Baltimore, DC, LA, NY, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago..All Democrat run cesspools for the last 50 years. Their policies are working are so great.

  4. I’m not in construction, but isn’t it cheaper to fix a leaky roof than to totally re-build a structure?

  5. I think we need a panel of economists to weigh in on the economic benefit of an Outkast reunion concert. Don’t decide too quickly.

  6. tim c: You haven’t spent a lot of time in Baltimore have you?

    Fixing a roof doesn’t give a politician something to point to at election time. Baltimore is full of hair-brained developments build with public money sometimes located just blocks from great old row houses that sit abandoned and boarded up.

  7. When the Bullets used to play there four times a year it was great, fantastic site lines, so much better than Verizon Center and the old Cap Centre. Can’t imagine how they’d justify public funding for the arena with no NBA or NHL team to fill it. They don’t even have a major college basketball team in the city.

  8. PowerBoater69: All proposals I saw when I lived in Baltimore relied on “hey, we will use it for conventions.” Baltimore politicos love the “we’ll be a huge convention destination, it’ll be great” line because when people think of a convention destination Baltimore just naturally jumps to the top of the list.

    The largest public works project in Baltimore history was the city built a Hilton hotel connected to the convention center for $305M because if there was just a Hilton, then the convention center would draw people.

    When I lived in Baltimore, they were trying to figure out how to close the $5M-$6M annual hole in the city budget created by the losses of the city-owned Hilton. The proposed solution? We need more conventions, so let’s buy a Sheraton and turn it into an arena for larger conventions. Then the Hilton will be full.

  9. As a current Baltimore metro (and former city) resident, I can confirm all of the above is true. I can also confirm that the Arena itself is a poorly designed mess that might (stress that might) be better off being razed to the ground and built new than being refitted. That said, much like the author of the original article concedes, “There are about a million other issues facing our city that are far more important than this in context. I do not think… …that they should prioritize the building over crime, education, drug issues, the economy, police support, public works or the six million or so other major issues facing our city. ”

    Yes it’s a mess that needs to be dealt with at some point after a bunch of much more important issues. When that happens, it may be better to destroy it entirely than try to fix what is not just a leaky roof but a bad building

  10. ” because if there was just a Hilton, then the convention center would draw people. ”

    Phoenix had the same problem – the convention center needs a new hotel! Nobody in the private sector would take it on, so naturally the deep thinkers who run the city said “If it’s too risky for private capital, that’s proof the government should do it.”

    The city just finished unloading the hotel at great loss, of course. Probably just the wrong brand – Hiltons and Sheratons don’t work, so maybe we shoulda named it Travelodge or Moneypit Suites or something.

  11. “Detroit, Baltimore, DC, LA, NY, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago..All Democrat run cesspools for the last 50 years. Their policies are working are so great.”

    Trying to connect sports subsidies to a particular party is hopeless — nearly all local officials do it, whatever their political bent. And of the top four mayors opposed to handing money to sports team owners, we have two Democrats (Oakland and Minneapolis), one Republican (Anaheim), and one “post-partisan” (Calgary).

    Also, New York just finished 20 years straight of Republican mayors, so, wha?


  13. Well to be fair, it’s over 50 years old; at a capacity of around 12,000 it’s too small to attract a migrating NHL/NBA team, so it’s not just a case of patching a leaky roof. It’s only good for concerts and, what, indoor soccer? High school graduations? Caps and Wizards pre-season games? Pretty much every other city its size has a superior facility, even those who don’t have an NHL/NBA team (Cincy, KC, Omaha, Seattle, etc). But true, Baltimore has other problems. Maybe they can craft a new season of “The Wire” about the political gamesmanship and corruption around the construction of a state-of-the-art facility with luxury boxes and such.

  14. “Only good for concerts” is probably fine if your city isn’t likely to ever get an NBA or NHL team, no?

  15. Not to mention there is an 18k seat arena 30 miles away in College Park and a 20k seat arena 40 miles away in DC. It would seem a smaller arena fills a niche while a larger one would enter a crowded marketplace.

  16. A leaky roof? Why quibble. I’d be up for a new venue if a bathroom faucet leaked. A 50 cent washer or a 500 million dollar arena? In my world, that’s a no brainer…. New Stadium, please!

    I love the smell of public stadium cash in the morning!!

  17. It seems to me that the concert/event market is driven by the ability of the city to sell a certain number of tickets at a certain price. Lots of places–particularly big time sports schools–are building very modern and fancy arenas but aren’t really getting lot of big time concerts because the local market is just too small or without high enough disposable income.

    Cities like New York, DC, Philly all have arenas that approaching 20 years old or older (including pre-renovation MSG) and still get great shows.

    Baltimore having a bare-bones 12k arena (or less) seems about right for the market.

  18. Yes we really do need a arena they been talking about one for years the sound system sucks the seats are old an too close together but I always go to the events an have fun

    • True. But, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. So far, they’ve brought in a new scoreboard back in December and now there are rumbling that they may follow Providence’s route and spend $100 million on renovations.

      Even the 2007 Maryland Stadium Authority study on a new Baltimore arena stated that renovation would “prove difficult in engineering systems…difficulty in premium seating” and “still result in less than ideal features such as poor sightlines”.

      • The NHL said no in 1967 for a 5 year old building. Remember there are 5,000 obstructed view hockey seats.

        The Bullets ran to College Park and then to Landover.

        No NCAA tournament games. (1995 is a longtime ago)

        One Maryland game every 20 years. I was there.

        No minor league hockey, AFL, the loss of the CAA Mens Basketball tournament.

        Springsteen made fun of the dump in April. I was there.

        Baltimore has missed out on decades of concerts and countless sporting events while every major and mid major metropolitan area has built a new arena