Baltimore Arena Renovations Begin

| March 14, 2022 | 0 Comments

Oak View Group’s (OVG) renovation of the Baltimore Arena has started. This $150-plus million project will take just under a year to complete. The goal is for the arena to reopen for the CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments on February 20, 2023.

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.

OVG was the winning bid in a 2020 Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) Request for Proposals seeking firms to renovate or rebuild the arena at the current site. BDC’s goal “is to create a major transformation of the existing Arena into a first-class, modern, entertainment and event venue through either renovation or new construction.”

OVG and Clark Construction fenced off the arena and started demolition. Clark Construction has set up an OxBlue construction camera in the interior of the arena. Current visuals show the stage getting demolished.

The 2022 CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, which wrapped up on February 26th, were the last events at the arena before the renovations began.

In December, architecture firm Brisbin Brook Beynon showed off the vision of the renovations to Baltimore City Planning Department’s Urban Design & Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP).

Architect Murray Beynon of Brisbin Brook Beynon said this project is “most synonymous” with OVG’s renovation of the The Forum in Los Angeles which is the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers. 

The renovation plans showed new suites; a new party area; renovated concourses with new concessions, bars, and terraces overlooking Downtown northbound; “theatre boxes” at the front of the upper deck; new suites; and, a pushed-back stage to allow more lower-level seating.

Beynon said there are relatively empty mechanical areas in the arena that can be turned into suites and flex areas.

The exterior design shows new signage, new LED screens, a sail design structure, working the existing glass into the design, and the terraces. In the design, the billboards are removed from the upper level of the exterior, and the facade is painted and uplit with different colors.

The sails are an homage to the waterfront and sailing history of Baltimore.

On the Howard St. side of the building, renderings show new mural and lighting at the street level.

OVG is also proposing removing a street that services the arena adjacent to Hopkins Plaza (the street) and creating a new event plaza with a cafe. Event staff would be able to drive onto the plaza to prepare and break down an event.

OVG envisions festivals that would close down Hopkins Plaza.

No public funds will used for this project.

UDAAP panelists were critical of the exterior design and hoped to see more attention paid to Howard St.

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, 1st Mariner Arena, and Royal Farms Arena until the the end of February.

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.

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.

Screenshot from the OxBlue construction camera

Current condition (slides from Brisbin Brook Beynon)

Exterior renderings presented at UDAAP from Brisbin Brook Beynon

Alternative design without sails 

Current pictures and interior renderings presented at UDAAP from Brisbin Brook Beynon

Plaza renderings presented at UDAAP  from Intreegue Design

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 Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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