Developers break ground on transformation of Baltimore Arena

Venue development, advisory, and investment company Oak View Group (OVG) has officially commenced work on the $200m (£160.9m/€189.1m) redevelopment of Baltimore Arena, with US rapper and record producer Pharrell Williams signing on as the latest partner for the project.

A special ground breaking event was held yesterday (Thursday) for the venture, which aims to transform the 60-year-old city-owned arena into a new multi-purpose, state-of-the-art entertainment and sports venue.

In partnership with the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), Fundamental Advisors, and Thirty Five Ventures (35V), a company co-founded by NBA star Kevin Durant and businessman Rich Kleiman, it was announced that Williams will also team up with OVG and invest in the project.

Once fully renovated into its new 14,000-capacity guise, the arena will serve as a key anchor on the west side of downtown Baltimore and help drive further investment and development in the area.

As part of the planned renovations, OVG, Fundamental Advisors and 35V will fully fund the cost of the arena’s total reconstruction through a combination of private debt and equity, which in aggregate is estimated to $200m, up from the previously reported $150m. In return, they will lease the building for the next 30 years through an entity called Baltimore Arena Co.

“The $200m private investment we’re making in Baltimore Arena, which comes at no cost to taxpayers, will be a catalyst to rejuvenate downtown Baltimore with new life, new jobs, and new economic stimulus,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group.

“I started my career 40 years ago with (indoor soccer team) the Baltimore Blast in this very arena and believe this transformation will create a world-class point of destination for live entertainment for all of Baltimore.”

The former Royal Farms Arena opened in 1962 and has been used to stage basketball and ice hockey games. OVG teamed up with 35V in June last year to be granted an Exclusive Negotiating Privilege and Right of Entry agreement for the redevelopment of the arena.

Renovations include the removal of the permanent stage, adding seats and suites, refurbishing concourses, upgrading concessions areas, and changing the building’s appearance. Additional upgrades to the facility will include focuses on sustainability such as using locally sourced materials, LED lighting, low flow and waterless fixtures, and more.

World-class acoustics will be introduced to amplify the audio experience; along with next-generation touchless and self-serve technologies for food & beverage and merchandise purchases. Renovations will be made to the venue’s back of house, while the arena’s telecommunications infrastructure, wireless network, and video/network/security systems will be upgraded.

Baltimore Arena is set to open in 2023 in advance of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) basketball tournament scheduled for February 20. The project’s delivery is anticipated to create approximately 500 construction jobs over the next 12 months.

“Oak View Group has laid out a bold plan that will not only redevelop the Baltimore Arena, but serve as an anchor to completely revitalise our downtown community for generations to come,” said Baltimore Mayor, Brandon Scott.

“I’m proud that this project reaffirms our commitment to further reinvest in small minority-owned businesses and create a future that uplifts us all.

“In a time when so many in our city, as well as across the country, are feeling the rising costs of goods and services, this project is a meaningful step towards reinvigorating our local economy through the creation of more jobs, new businesses, tourism, and other growth opportunities that will benefit all Baltimoreans. Baltimore’s renaissance is on the horizon.”

Baltimore Arena is OVG’s latest arena development project after the new Moody Center opened in April on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.

Images: OVG