The 2nd Mariner

Nearly eight months after the city of Baltimore formed a panel to review proposals for a new venue, city and state leaders announced plans July 24 to replace the 46-year-old 1st Mariner Arena with a new 18,500-seat facility.

The new venue is estimated to cost $300 million or more and be largely publicly financed.

Demolition of the 13,300-capacity 1st Mariner Arena would begin in 2010 with the new venue opening as soon as 2012, according to the Baltimore Sun.

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, who heads the Baltimore Development Corp., said the project would require "a major private investment" and that private financing could come from an arena operator and corporate naming rights to the facility, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. The paper noted that a formal request for proposals will be issued shortly, with responses expected by fall.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon chose the site of the 1st Mariner – a venue officials call "functionally obsolete" – because the location is close to the Inner Harbor, Baltimore Convention Center and transit lines. The Baltimore Sun noted that the arena would include retail space on the ground level and the city could sell condominiums or offices above the venue.

The estimated cost of the arena is a little north of the smaller, $160 million venue a May 2007 study by the Maryland Stadium Authority recommended, according to the Business Journal. But the more expensive price tag covers extra seating. meaning the venue would be big enough to potentially attract a professional basketball or hockey team.

Although the NHL and NBA aren’t known to have plans to expand or relocate any teams, city and state officials say they would build the venue without a commitment from a professional sports team. They hope the project will be a success even without a team as the venue could host large concerts and events.

Critics say it is unlikely the city could attract a professional team and that the arena would have trouble selling luxury seating, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The 1st Mariner Arena is home to the Baltimore Mariners indoor football team and the Baltimore Blast soccer team. The Baltimore Development Corp. has already began searching for temporary locations for the soccer team and other events during the possible two to three years of venue construction, according to the Journal. Even so, the Blast’s owner said building the arena on the Mariner site would likely put the team out of business.

A representative at 1st Mariner Arena was not available for comment at press time.