Baltimore city and Maryland state officials announced this week the intention to build a new 18,500 seat arena on the site of the existing First Mariner Arena. Economic development benefits are, of course, one of the reasons the politicos and development commission types tell us the city "needs" a new arena. Too bad there is no evidence to support the argument.
But there are other reasons too.
This from the Baltimore Sun on Friday:
"We need a state-of-the-art arena because whether we have a major-league team in Baltimore playing basketball or shooting hockey pucks, this is a major-league city and it deserves a major-league arena," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp.
Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat and avowed basketball fan, speculated that if a new arena lures a professional basketball team to Baltimore, the economic benefit would extend far beyond the city line.
"Baltimore deserves to have three major franchises," Zirkin said. "Baltimore should be a player in this, and it hasn't been. I just think it's incredibly important for economic reasons."
Several articles on the issue have appeared yesterday and today. They can be found here.
Whether Baltimore and Maryland deserve a new arena or to have a franchise in each of the three major sports is certainly open for debate. What I think most people would agree with is that Baltimore and Maryland, and everywhere else, deserve people in public office who make policy on evidence and fact rather than on speculation and wishful thinking.
Addendum August 6, 2008 Here is the Op-Ed I wrote for the Baltimore Sun.