Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baltimore deserves new arena -- and possibilities that come with it

It's not me, it's you.

I've been on a new arena kick lately, as the plans for a new Baltimore arena have been caught up in the red tape that seems to cover all of downtown.

The plans do seem to be moving along, albeit at a snail's pace, at least according to my old friend Chris Stoner's blog, Baltimore Sports & Life. But there's no denying that this new arena talk seems trapped in suspended animation.

I'm all for a 18-20K seat arena built at the current site of the First Mariner Arena. The light rail and metro subway already service the location and the proposed Red Line (I call it the Red Tape Line) would run close by.

And even though tearing down the First Mariner Arena would force out the arena's current tenants, most notably, the Baltimore Blast, I say it's high-time that Baltimore got a new arena. Besides, the Blast draw approximately 7K per game and the Towson Center at Towson University holds 5K. Cole Field House at the University of Maryland is currently sitting vacant and can accommodate many more fans.

The First Mariner Arena is 47 years old. It's a relic. Dozens of arenas across the country have been built and demolished during that time, and yet ours keeps chugging along, seemingly indestructible. It's actually still a profitable asset for the city, much in the way that an old car is still profitable for a driver. No car payments, great, but the gas mileage sucks.

The First Mariner Arena still attracts some decent concerts and other events. But it is what it is. A 11,000 seat dinosaur. With a stage.

A new arena would do so much more for the city, starting by helping revitalize the west side of downtown Baltimore. The Hippodrome remodeling project went a long way to restore the west side's past high-class heritage, but the sudden downturn in the economy froze the remainder of that urban renewal project.

That's where a new arena comes in. It gives local businesses a shot in the arm. It brings in people who spend money in a neighborhood that looks more like a ghost town than a downtown. It'll force crime out of the area with more police patrol and security guards. It'll attract more homeowners to the area.

And it'll do what a new arena does best -- bring more top-tier events to Baltimore.

NCAA Tournament games. Better concerts. And dare I say, it might even attract a troubled NBA or NHL team.

You say the NBA or NHL will never work in Baltimore? Well, I'm tired of Baltimore being told that they can't have this or that.

After the NFL went out of their way to deny Baltimore a football team throughout the 80's and 90's, I've become greedy when it comes to my city. We should have it all. A comprehensive mass-transit system, a state of the art arena, and NBA and a NHL team, if we want one.

Yeah, I said it.

Google "Baltimore NHL or NBA team" and listen to people say it won't work. That we're too close to Washington DC or Philadelphia.


They said the same thing when we were trying to bring an NFL team back to Baltimore. Yet the Ravens have sold out every single game since they moved into M&T Bank Stadium.

That's right. Every. Single. Game.

Even with the Redskins 40 miles down the road and the Eagles 90 miles to the north. Oh and with more Steeler fans in the area than imaginable. Even with all that going against her, Baltimore still supports her own.

And I believe she'd be able to support an NBA or NHL team without a problem.

Baltimore is the 20th biggest city and metro area in the United States. It's one of the most affluent metro areas in the country. It has some of the country's biggest employers located within or near its borders. Social Security Administration, Johns Hopkins University, T. Rowe Price.

Baltimore can support at least one more pro team, if not two. All it takes is a new arena.

Build a new arena and Baltimore instantly becomes a contender for relocation the next time a NHL team in Phoenix or Nashville or an NBA team in New Orleans or Memphis has trouble at the gate.

Like they say in the movies...If you build it they will come.

But even without a NHL or NBA team, a new arena still makes sense for the city.

I'm just tired of being told we can't have what we want...what we deserve.

And Baltimore deserves a new arena and the possibilities that come along with it.

Don't you agree?

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