CFG Bank Arena Developer Considered Building a New Arena in South Baltimore

| November 27, 2023 | 0 Comments

Oak View Group (OVG), the company that redeveloped CFG Bank Arena and has a 30-year lease on the property, considered building a new arena before committing to renovating Baltimore’s existing Downtown arena. OVG CEO Tim Leiweke was a guest on Weller Development’s ‘From The Ground Up’ podcast and detailed the different opportunities the organization considered in the years leading up to the CFG Bank Arena renovation.

The two sites OVG considered were at the Port Covington development (now known as Baltimore Peninsula), which was led by Weller Development before it transitioned to new development partners MAG Partners and MacFarlane Partners last year, and at the Wheelabrator Baltimore trash burning facility at 1801 Annapolis Rd., just south of Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.

Weller Development President and Founding Partner Marc Weller said on the podcast, “We were looking to add to that massive project we built in Baltimore, the Port Covington project, and we were really serious about an arena and found the perfect partner [OVG].”

On the podcast, Leiweke said:

The only political way to get a deal done in Baltimore was the renovation. We went way down the road on Port Covington, and it was actually a brilliant concept. Because what it was, was a point of destination that would’ve been another moment of redefining Baltimore and creating some usages with people like the NBA and people like the music community including our current partner Pharrell. And doing things there would’ve transformed the economy and the people that ultimately would’ve come to visit Baltimore.

Leiweke called the Port Covington proposal “a multi-billion project with some of the biggest companies in the world.”

He continued on the podcast:

So what happened is life happens, you get swallowed up in politics, everybody has an opinion, everybody has a project, everybody’s directing you on “no we want this, we want that, we want here, we want there.”

The next step was we were being directed to go look at the recycling plant that was the incinerator. And they were saying, “We want you to build there.” And I’m like, “Are you serious? Do you understand what’s underneath that soil, and do you understand the cleanup it would take to build it there?”

And that is where we got stuck. And we were stuck there for about six months until the children’s book [referring to Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly scandal that led to her stepping down from office.]

He continued:

Then that kind of disappeared and to the credit of the current mayor, he came in and ultimately he was really focused on saying, “I don’t want build a new arena on the water and the port, I don’t want to build a new arena at the incinerator plant. I want you to go figure it out. Can you go bid on taking the current arena and renovating it?” That’s what we did and that’s what worked out.

He later added:

The ability to begin to have a renaissance and rejuvenation of the urban core in Baltimore–we are seeing the very beginning of that and I am very optimistic about where Baltimore is going.

OVG won the 2020 Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) Request for Proposals seeking firms to renovate or rebuild the arena at the current site. It began an approximately $250-million renovation to the arena in March 2022 and reopened it in February 2023.

Renovations included new suites, new seats, new concessions, new bars, new mechanical systems, and the removal of the permanent stage structure. The new capacity is 14,000. The arena has hosted big-name concerts and shows since reopening as well as the CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.

Leiweke was already familiar with Baltimore’s arena as he was General Manager of the Baltimore Blast in 1980 at the age of 24. The Blast played home games at the arena until 2017.

Wheelabrator Baltimore is still in business and has an agreement with the City of Baltimore to run its plant at 1801 Annapolis Rd. until December 31, 2031.

MaryAnne Gilmartin of MAG Partners told earlier this year that sporting venues are still “top of mind all the time” at the Baltimore Peninsula Development. The Right to Dream soccer academy was eying the Baltimore Peninsula development for a stadium, academy, and United Soccer League (USL) franchise, but instead the group moved its focus to San Diego where it was awarded a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise earlier this year.

When asked about Right to Dream going to San Diego and if the Baltimore Peninsula development is still pursuing professional soccer, Gilmartin said, “I can tell you that there are sporting venues that are looking to be in Baltimore.”

CFG Bank Arena Renovation photo 

Baltimore Peninsula 

Wheelabrator Baltimore site. Screenshots from Google Maps

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