The Maryland Stadium Authority has agreed to study the potential addition of two separate stadiums in South Baltimore, each of which would primarily be the home of a local soccer franchise. I had previously gone through the scenario of DC United moving into a new stadium in the Westport area, but now Crystal Palace FC, currently playing home games at UMBC, has put forth a proposal for a smaller soccer-specific stadium closer to the current Camden Yards sports complex.
While the addition of two new stadiums is highly unlikely, both groups believe they have put forth legitimate proposals for self-supporting venues. One can easily look to the idea of a new arena downtown to see where these potential projects already have a leg up; the arena project seems to be a never-ending cycle in that the city doesn’t want to begin funding an arena without a team to fill many of the yearly dates, but a team won’t commit to Baltimore without a guarantee of a brand new arena. Crystal Palace is the orchestrating group behind their proposal for a 7,000 seat venue and DC United has been working to leave RFK Stadium for some time as they’re one of the few MLS clubs left without its own soccer-specific stadium.
Financing will obviously be an issue for both of these plans as the city and state and continually trying to make cuts from the budget going forward. A key for the study will be determining the long-term revenue potential from other events outside of the soccer teams. A 20,000 seat stadium has the potential to be a premier concert venue in the area and draw shows away from Nissan Pavilion, Hershey Park Stadium, and other regional outdoor concert hosts. I would argue that Pier Six and Merriweather Post Pavilion both largely disappoint in the acts that they bring to the Baltimore metro area and a new concert venue could bring some great acts to Baltimore that have, in years passed, skipped over the region.
There will be many obstacles for both of these projects to clear before the proposals are approved, but it’s nice to see that the city and state are seriously considering at least one new stadium in the area to be the consistent home of live soccer as well as other events throughout the year. Hopefully just a few summers from now we can all be out at Old Bay Park enjoying some Natty Bohs while we watch the Baltimore Blue Crabs roll to a 3-0 victory over the New England Revolution.