New Study Examines Carroll Park Golf Course, Reedbird Park, and Swann Park for Soccer Stadium

| January 8, 2024 | 0 Comments

Last month, the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), in partnership with Crossroads Consulting and Populous, completed a study about building a “multi-use soccer stadium” in Baltimore for a Major League Soccer (MLS) Next Pro team owned by D.C. United. MLS Next Pro is the third tier of professional soccer in the United States.

The studied looked at the possibility of building a 7,500-seat stadium that could be expanded to a capacity of 10,000. The three sites submitted by the City of Baltimore were the Carroll Park Golf Course, Reedbird Park in Cherry Hill, and Swann Park in Baltimore Peninsula. UMBC in Catonsville was also submitted as a site to be studied.

In addition to being used by D.C. United’s MLS Next Pro club, D.C. United is also looking for a stadium to bring its newly-formed USL Super League women’s team to Baltimore. The USL Super League looks to compete with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) as the top level of women’s professional soccer in the United States.

D.C. United, which would operate the stadium, is also interested in hosting additional professional soccer games, lacrosse games, rugby games, entertainment, and additional community events at the stadium.

The recently-published study is phase one of the process to examine the market, site fit, and economic impact. If D.C. United, or any other professional soccer entity, wanted to move forward on a phase two study due diligence would be done on specific sites. This study would look at costs, easements, conceptional designs, and utilities.

D.C. United and MSA split the $50,000 cost of the phase one study. A phase two study would like cost $200,000 to $400,000, according to MSA Executive Vice President Gary McGuigan.

When asked if additional investment groups looking to bring professional soccer to the area are able to use the study, Al Tyler, vice president of the Capital Projects Development Group at the MSA, told SouthBMore.com the study is available to the public and anyone is welcome to view it.

The USL Championship, the second tier of professional soccer in the United States, has been eying Baltimore in recent years. Last year Egyptian billionaire Mohammed Mansour of The Mansour Group was pursuing Baltimore Peninsula for a USL Championship club and his Right to Dream soccer academy. MSA was going to conduct a study for this proposal, but it was cancelled as Mansour moved his focus to San Diego where he was awarded, in partnership with with Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, an MLS expansion franchise.

D.C. United’s effort to bring a professional outdoor team to Baltimore is the latest of many efforts over the last 14 years. Crystal Palace Baltimore, which was affiliated with English Premier League club Crystal Palace, ascended to USL Second Division and proposed a new stadium in Pigtown/Carroll-Camden Industrial Area in 2009, but the club dissolved in 2010.

D.C. United’s top level MLS club looked at Baltimore as a location for a new stadium in 2009, but the team’s new ownership, which took over in 2012, returned the focus to Washington, D.C. and opened Audi Field in 2017. Victor MacFarlane, who is now a development partner in the Baltimore Peninsula development, was a co-owner of D.C. United from 2007 to 2009.

The Study

The phase one study ranked Carroll Park Golf Course as the top option for a soccer stadium with 156 points. Reedbird Park was the second best site with 149 points and Swann Park was the third best with 129 points. UMBC ranked fourth with 124 points.

Site criteria from the study:

The new MLS NEXT Stadium is assumed to have a capacity of 7,500 patrons, expandable to 10,000. A soccer stadium of this type will typically occupy a footprint of approximately 7 acres. Based on the fact that all the sites are remote from Baltimore’s existing light rail and subway system, it is further assumed that 90% of fans will be driving to stadium events, with the other 10% potentially utilizing alternative forms of transportation such as rideshare, bus transit and bicycle. For the purpose of this study, it is assumed that a preliminary ratio of three fans per car is appropriate. This ratio results in the need for 2,250 parking spaces to accommodate anticipated event day parking demand. This quantity of surface parking will likely require 18 Acres +/-. It is generally desirable for the majority of fan parking to occur within a 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile radius from the stadium, which equates to a 5-10 minute walk. It is reasonable to assume that some portion of the available parking can occur up to 3/4 of a mile away from the stadium, equating to a 15-minute walk, but that distance will likely be perceived as excessive for many fans. Should the stadium expand to a capacity of 10,000 patrons, the required parking program would expand accordingly to 3,000 spaces, an increase of 750 spaces. Additionally, a full-sized practice soccer pitch is to be located on the Site, requiring an additional 2 Acres +/-.

When asked if Reedbird Park or Carroll Park Golf Course could become a soccer complex with additional soccer fields, Tyler said the possibility wasn’t the mission of the study, but that conceptually it could be done. Site constraints would prevent that at Swann Park.

Carroll Park

The 67-acre Carroll Park Golf Course is currently a nine-hole golf course that has been open since 1923. It is adjacent to the Montgomery Park business park, Carroll Park, and the neighborhoods of Pigtown, Morrell Park, Carroll-Park Industrial Area, Mill Hill, Carrollton Ridge, and Wilhelm Park. It is adjacent to I-95.

Tyler told SouthBMore.com that Mayor Brandon Scott knows the historical significance of the Carroll Park Golf Course and has expressed a willingness to be part of the conversation if the site is chosen for a soccer stadium.

Significant strengths and challenges from the study:

Significant Strengths

  • Site Size and Configuration (Stadium & Practice Pitch) Ability to Accommodate Future Expansion
  • Property Ownership/Assembly
  • Pedestrian Access to Parking From Stadium
  • Ability to Provide VIP Parking On-Site (1/8 Mile or Closer) Ability to Provide Required Parking On-Site
  • Scheduling Conflicts/Competition for Parking

Significant Challenges

  • Need For Off-Site Improvements
  • Availability of Public Parking
  • Proximity to Existing Development Districts/Civic Amenities/Places of Value
  • Potential Development Catalyst
    Visibility/Civic Image/Community Presence

Site rendering from the MSA, Crossroads Consulting, and Populous

Reedbird Park

The Reedbird Park site is 54 acres of undeveloped green space in Cherry Hill. It was formerly a landfill.

The site is adjacent to the new Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center and is bordered to the east by the Patapsco River and to the south by CSX rail lines. Just west of the site is the Cherry Hill Homes public housing complex. The site is also close to Rt. 2.

A new stadium at Reedbird Park would add to the sporting options at the Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center. Along with the large recreation center, the facility has the BGE Field presented by KELLY turf stadium and outdoor basketball courts. There are three additional grass sports fields planned.

Significant strengths and challenges from the study:

Significant Strengths

  • Site Size and Configuration (Stadium & Practice Pitch)
  • Ability to Accommodate Future Expansion
  • Property Ownership/Assembly
  • Pedestrian Access to Parking From Stadium
  • Ability to Provide VIP Parking On-Site (1/8 Mile or Closer) Ability to Provide Required Parking On-Site
  • Scheduling Conflicts/Competition for Parking

Significant Challenges

  • Need For Off-Site Improvements
  • Availability of Public Parking
  • Proximity to Existing Development Districts/Civic Amenities/Places of Value
  • Potential Development Catalyst
  • Visibility/Civic Image/Community Presence
  • Compatibility With Adjacent Land Uses

Site rendering from the MSA, Crossroads Consulting, and Populous

Swann Park

The 11-acre Swann Park, located in Baltimore Peninsula, sits adjacent to the South Baltimore neighborhood on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. It is currently an active park with athletic facilities including Al Kaline Field for baseball, a soccer and football field, and two softball fields.

Swann Park was closed in 2007 after it was found to be contaminated with arsenic. It later reopened in 2010 after remediation and a renovation was completed.

Swann Park’s future has been in limbo due to the Baltimore Peninsula development master plan. Early renderings showed the park being replaced with new blocks and the athletic fields being relocated to an expanded West Covington Park. But, MaryAnne Gilmartin of MAG Partners, one of the partners in the Baltimore Peninsula development team, told SouthBMore.com in June that the future of the park has not yet been determined.

“What I like about the master plan is that it is inherently flexible,” said Gilmartin. “It’s nice when you can move ideas around. Swann Park could ultimately be a park forever. It could also be used for waterfront entertainment venues.”

Tyler told SouthBMore.com that when analyzing Swann Park, the Baltimore Peninsula development team was “part of the conversation on how the whole thing would fit together.”

A future Middle Branch Trail Bridge is planned to connect Swann Park to Westport. Westport has a Light Rail station that is a half a mile from Swann Park.

Significant strengths and challenges from the study:

Significant Strengths

  • Proximity to Existing Development Districts
  • Potential Catalyst for Surrounding Development
  • Visibility/Civic Image/Community Presence
  • Compatibility With Adjacent Land Uses

Significant Challenges

  • Conflicts With Existing Utilities
  • Need for Off-Site Improvements
  • Environmental Remediation/Flood Plain
  • Pedestrian Access to Parking
  • Availability of Public Parking
  • Ability to Accommodate VIP Parking
  • On-Site Access to Alternative Transportation/Public Transit

Site rendering from the MSA, Crossroads Consulting, and Populous

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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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