BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A groundbreaking ceremony at city-owned Baltimore Arena in downtown marked the start of a $200 million privately funded, 12-month redevelopment project Thursday afternoon.
The 60-year-old arena, formerly known as the Baltimore Civic Center and Royal Farms Arena, will be transformed into a new multi-purpose, state-of-the-art entertainment and sports venue, according to the developer Oak View Group.READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Storms Possible
“Not one dollar of taxpayer’s money is involved in this. It’s all private and secondly, the taxpayers aren’t at risk on this project,” explained Oak View Group CEO, Tim Leiweke. “We take all the operating risk. We put up all the capital over the next 30-years.”
Leiweke said during the groundbreaking that Baltimore holds a special place in his heart and thanked city officials for coming to an agreement that allowed for his return home with a big business plan in mind.
“I started my career here with the Baltimore Blast,” said Leiweke.
The soccer team kicked off in 1980 and earned its first MISL Championship during the 1983-1984 season.
Renovations to the arena will include additional seating, adding suites, upgrading concession areas and changing the building’s façade. New technology will also be installed from touchless and self-serve food and beverage options to amplify guests’ audio experience.
Once completed, the arena will be able to accommodate 14,000 guests.READ MORE: Early Voting For Maryland Primary Begins
Mayor Brandon Scott believes this will inject a much-needed financial boom to the city’s downtown area and could influence further investment and development.
“While she’s well overdue for a renovation, this wonderful old lady has always been a place for musical acts, sports teams and entertainment has always wanted to be,” Scott said.
The mayor also reflected on times he spent as a child going to events at the venue.
“I saw the circus with my mom and monster trucks with my dad and brothers. That’s what this building means to Baltimore and Baltimore families,” Scott said.
The project is expected to create about 500 construction jobs over the next 12 months.
The developers have recently opened other venues across the country, including the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA., and the UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.MORE NEWS: National Weather Service Confirms EF-1 Tornado Hit Bowie, Second Tornado In Anne Arundel County
The venue located at 201 West Baltimore Street is expected to be open in 2023 ahead of the CIAA basketball tournament, which is scheduled for February 20.