Unfortunately I was unable to attend last Friday’s World Football Challenge match at M&T Bank Stadium as I had previously scheduled a trip to Boston to see the Orioles attempt (weakly) to beat the Red Sox. From everything I have heard and read, though, the event was a major success; something that the city should be looking into promoting as Baltimore vies for other major sporting events. Of the six games that made up the World Football Challenge, the game in Baltimore was the only to sell out the entire stadium. There were a number of factors that aided to the sell out crowd (best game, only Friday night game), but 71,203 people don’t show up for a soccer game out of convenience. There’s great passion for soccer in this area and the city embraced the event beautifully. As I was leaving from Federal Hill on Friday afternoon there were jerseys everywhere, the bars were packed, and there was a festive air about the neighborhood; something that doesn’t happen too often outside of Purple Sundays.
With the success of this game Baltimore will, hopefully, earn the chance to host more high profile soccer (US World Cup bid for 2018 or 2022) as well as other less mainstream sporting events that ca still draw big crowds. Even though I never attended it myself, I was sad to see the Dew Tour leave the city after last summer. Over a weekend, the Dew Tour could draw well over 50,000 people, which is great for the economy of the city and for the city’s general exposure. As mentioned in the post below there are rumors of a Grand Prix event coming to downtown Baltimore in the near future. F1 racing isn’t something that many Baltimoreans follow closely, but as with other major events coming to the city, it will be embraced and celebrated in the time leading up to the race. We might not have the most populated city, but it seems that the Baltimore metro area is sufficiently open minded about new experiences coming to the city and can embrace new events enough to make them flourish.
The city and state are obviously working hard to bring high profile events into Baltimore and I think their efforts will be rewarded with organizers and promoters eager to return. The departure of the Dew Tour seems less to do about the city itself than our lack of a first class arena to host a variety of indoor events. The NCAA lacrosse Final Four is returning to the city in 2010 and, in my opinion, should never leave but the NCAA doesn’t seem interested in the permanent placement of it’s third highest attended championships (following only basketball and football). I have no doubts that when M&T Bank Stadium hosts the Army/Navy game in a few years there will be as raucous and enthusiastic a crowd as there ever has been.
Hopefully on Friday night Baltimore proved, once again, that it’s ready to host even more first class events downtown. As the World Football Challenge leaves, another event has passed in Baltimore with tremendous success; success that we, as a city, would like the opportunity to repeat.