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Baltimore eyes ambitious $1B arena/convention center proposal

Baltmore SkipjacksIt would be one of the most ambitious building projects in Baltimore history, as the Greater Baltimore Committee is proposing a billion-dollar expansion of the downtown Convention Center that would include a 18,500-seat arena to replace 1st Mariner Arena.

Details of the proposal include a 400,000-square-foot Convention Center expansion, a 500-room Sheraton to replace an existing smaller hotel, and the new arena. The cost of construction for these three elements is estimated to be between $750 million and $930 million; add in the cost of demolishing existing Convention Center space and a hotel as well as the arena, and the total cost of the project should be around the billion-dollar mark.

Though that’s a pretty high price tag for convention-center and arena construction, it’s not even the most expensive development in the city at the present time: an expansion of Johns Hopkins facilities is budgeted at $1.1 billion.

The need for the new arena isn’t driven by sports — indeed, there’s little chance either the NBA or NHL would be interested in the city while holding court in nearby Washington — but the opportunity to hold larger events, such as concerts, NCAA tournament games and touring shows far beyond the capacities of 1st Mariner Arena.

Of course, the usual disclaimers apply: there’s no funding plan in place, and everything is highly conceptual.

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