$150-Million Renovation of Royal Farms Arena Aims to Begin This Spring

| November 24, 2021 | 0 Comments

The Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) is in an Exclusive Negotiating Privilege (ENP) and Right of Entry agreement with Oak View Group (OVG) for the Royal Farms Arena located at 201 W. Baltimore St. A $150-plus million renovation plan and management agreement for the City-owned arena was approved today by the Baltimore City Board of Estimates (BOE).

The arena was constructed in 1961. It was previously the home to the Baltimore Bullets, Baltimore Blast, Baltimore Skipjacks, and additional indoor football and lacrosse teams. It has taken on different names including the Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore Arena, and 1st Mariner Arena.

The current arena has a capacity of 14,000 for concerts and up to 12,289 for basketball, hockey, or soccer. It lacks the size or modern amenities to be the home of an NBA or NHL team, and it has not hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since 1995.

Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said his teams would play more games in Baltimore if the City replaces the arena.

OVG is a sports and entertainment company founded by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff in 2015. OVG is leading the redevelopment and operations of Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, WA; UBS Arena in Belmont, NY; Moody Center in Austin, TX; Coachella Valley Arena in Palm Desert, CA; and an arena development project in Manchester, UK.

OVG is partnering with Thirty Five Ventures, an equity investor in the project. Thirty Five Ventures was founded by Brooklyn Nets player and Maryland native Kevin Durant as well as Rich Kleiman.

The Bethesda-based Clark Construction Group is the general contractor on the project. The company has a Baltimore office at Stadium Square in South Baltimore.

From BDC:

Project Description:

  • OVG and Thirty Five Ventures proposed design will balance the historical significance of the Arena with contemporary interior and exterior features such as glass, brand elements, lighting, signage, and sails – creating a warm and local feel with modern aesthetics. The new exterior will include outdoor spaces, improved signage, and branding opportunities while activating Hopkins Plaza and connecting to the surrounding neighborhood. The new interior will include contemporary seating, enhanced suites, food and beverage amenities, and reimagined concourse. The overall seating capacity will be expanded as well. The number of events is also expected to increase annually.

Cost:

  • OVG and Thirty Five Ventures will fully fund the cost of the Arena’s total renovation, which is expected to be at least $150 million with no City funds involved.

Project Timeline:

  • Construction will commence following the 2022 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (“CIAA”) Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and be substantially completed prior to the start of the 2023 CIAA Tournament. The Agreement is for a 30-year term.

MBE/WBE Participation:

  • OVG and Thirty Five Ventures is committed to achieving 45 percent minority and women-owned business participation during construction and maintaining that participation rate through ongoing operations. OVG has pledged to reserve at least 25 percent of the equity investment for minority investors. In addition, the general contractor, Clark Construction, will prioritize the hiring of City residents and provide pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs.

Impact:

  • The Baltimore Arena project will serve as a key anchor on Downtown’s Westside and help drive further investment and development in the area.

The CIAA basketball tournaments are scheduled to take place February 21st to 26th.

A representative for the BDC said the proposal would increase the capacity 10 to 15 percent. This would bring basketball attendance to 13,517 to 14,132 for basketball, hockey, and soccer. This would make Royal Farms Arena large enough for NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s first and second round games, but not large enough to make it the home of an NBA or NHL team.

Baltimore has seen many proposals for a new arena in recent decades, but none have moved forward. Arena management was previously worried a renovation that took the arena offline for a period of time would hurt the arena’s momentum, and hurt its ability to stay on the yearly schedule for certain events. However, with events halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, BDC said last year it has became an ideal time to look into renovating the current arena.

Screenshots from Google Maps

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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