BALTIMORE (WJZ) –A bigger and better convention center. That’s a plan making the rounds in Baltimore as the city seeks to capitalize on the popularity of 1st Mariner Arena.

Pat Warren has more on what’s driving the idea.

It’s long been determined that 1st Mariner Arena is past its prime, so the region’s most prominent organization of business and civic leaders figures, why not go whole hog?

There’s a billion-dollar idea budding in Baltimore business and government circles–an expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center with a new arena alongside.

There are a few hurdles to clear: the money, the timing and the space.

“I don’t think there’s anything we’ve ever done that everyone’s on board,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “It’s democracy, and for every three people there are eight opinions.”

This was the big news in 1996, the last expansion of the convention center. And it wowed newcomers.

“I couldn’t believe how large it is,” said one visitor.

“You will not believe how the space was when they showed it on TV until you actually come inside and see it for yourself,” said another.

Most recently, the city made news by building a hotel, the Hilton, connecting to the convention center. But there’s not a lot of space left to work with. So part of the plan would include demolishing part of the existing exhibit space.

“I anticipate having feedback– both positive and negative,” Rawlings-Blake said. “My goal is to make sure that we capitalize on the momentum that has been growing with the success of 1st Mariner. We have a great operation that’s bringing world-class talent to Baltimore. With a new facility we can even do more.”

The plan is so fresh that renderings of the proposal have not yet been released.

Officials have been considering expanding the convention center and building a new arena for some time. But the idea of combining the projects has supporters calling it a way for Baltimore to re-invent itself.

The financing still has to be worked out. We’re talking about $930 million, and it could be funded by some sort of public-private partnership.

The project would take around six and a half years to complete.


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