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Developer offers to fund Baltimore arena construction

New Baltimore Arena{jathumbnail off}

Developer Willard Hackerman has offered to fund the construction of a new $325-million, 18,500-seat arena as part of the expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center, making it much more likely an expansion of the Inner Harbor facility could begin in the near future.

Hackerman would also fund construction of a new hotel at the expanded complex. Hackerman already owns the Sheraton at the current convention center and would replace that with a larger, $175-million hotel.

The offers by Hackerman would certainly seem to make the convention-center makeover a go: it decreases the public price tag of the project from $900 million to $400 million, and it positions Baltimore well to grab a chunk of the increasing convention business. Officials with the Greater Baltimore Committee, a private business group working on the convention-center plan, say existing convention facilities in town are not large enough to lure large events. And 1st Mariner Arena is too small to attract high-profile touring shows.

This isn’t being positioned as a play to attract NBA or NHL teams; with the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals firmly esconced in Verizon Center just up the road, the economics of pro sports in the new arena are highly problematic; the more likely play is position the arena for preseason college tournaments and postseason NCAA action. With the ability to draw more conventions and larger touring shows, a new arena can exist just fine economically without a pro franchise. We’re guessing someone will show interest in placing an AHL team in the facility, however.

Rendering courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross.

RELATED STORIES: Baltimore eyes ambitious $1B arena/convention center proposal ; Baltimore arena plan shifts to waterfront

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