It was announced on Wednesday that the Royal Farms Arena is finally get a renovation to the tune of $150M thanks to a bid from the Oak View Group in association with Thirty Five Ventures, a firm partnered by NBA player and Maryland-native Kevin Durant. It is a project that is about two decades in the making and will give a much needed spruce up the almost 60-year-old arena.
But before people get too excited about this renovation and start plotting ways for either expansion or relocation of minor league hockey teams– we have to give it a pause for a moment. In the news stories put out, nothing has been mentioned about the ice plant, playing surface (currently 195′ x 85′), or locker rooms being upgraded by this renovation. If anything, it seems that the “front of house” side of things (ie: seating, concourse, exterior, lighting) will be the most changed over this.
Does that mean it’s not going to happen?? Not necessarily, but it probably is down the line in terms of priorities. Not to mention, rumors of anyone using Baltimore as a leverage piece for relocation haven’t happened in a while, so it’s not as if it would be treated as a priority. While there has been stumping for Baltimore to get hockey back into RoFo, I wouldn’t hold my breath– especially if nothing is done for a new ice plant and resizing the arena for hockey.
In fact, the ice surface hasn’t been used for hockey since 2013 when the 2nd Baltimore Hockey Classic happened and was a calamity of errors due to melting ice, dropping attendance, and other behind-the-scenes situations that caused the idea to be scrapped by the Washington Capitals. The 2011 game against Nashville provided a crowd of 11,384, but when the 2013 games that featured the Bruins only garnered 7,634; the Caps decided to keep the gate at Verizon Center and left Royal Farms Arena out of their plans.
While Royal Farms Arena does host Disney on Ice for a stint, you’d have to think that more tangible interest would be needed to address the concerns for the hockey side of things. With all the news out there, it seems as if the focus is on concerts, family events, and other sports with nothing about ice being addressed.
Truth be told, the only way hockey comes back to Baltimore is with a new arena– point blank period. The side of the Royal Farms is much too big for a team to turn a profit now, much less with the seating expansion being proposed. The surface, ice plant, and other amenities would also be better suited if building a new arena. Despite accessibility being great to the arena with the Light Rail right outside– don’t expect to be going there for hockey any time soon.
This news is great for the Baltimore area in giving the venue a much needed face-lift and refresher. However, if you expect hockey to be a part of this new shift forward– maybe tamper those emotions just a little bit. Not only that, but there’s plenty of solid hockey during the season in Maryland already, it’s just a matter of going to it.