Royal Farms Arena
1962 picture
Location 201 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Broke ground 1961
Opened October 23, 1962[1]
Owner City of Baltimore
Operator SMG
Surface Multi-surface
Construction cost US$14 million[1]
Architect AG Odell Jr.[2]
Former names Baltimore Civic Center (1961–1986)
Baltimore Arena (1986–2003, 2013–2014)
1st Mariner Arena (2003–2013)
Tenants Baltimore Clippers (AHL/SHL) (1962–1977)
Baltimore Bullets (NBA) (1963–1973)
Baltimore Banners (WTT) (1974)
Baltimore Blades (WHA) (1974–1975)
Baltimore Blast (MISL I) (1980–1992)
Baltimore Skipjacks (AHL) (1981–1993)
Baltimore Thunder (MILL/NLL) (1987–1999)
Baltimore Bayrunners (IBL) (1999–2000)
Baltimore Blast (MASL) (1992–present)
Baltimore Bandits (AHL) (1995–1997)
Baltimore Blackbirds (AIFA) (2007)
Baltimore Mariners (AIFA) (2008–2010, 2014)
Baltimore Charm (LFL) (2011–2014)
Capacity 11,271 (Baltimore Blast games), can be expanded to 14,000 for some events

Royal Farms Arena[3] (formerly Baltimore Arena, 1st Mariner Arena and Baltimore Civic Center) is an arena located in Baltimore. The arena is located about a block away from the Baltimore Convention Center on the corner of Baltimore Street and Hopkins Place; it is also only a short distance from the Inner Harbor. It seats up to approximately 14,000 people though this number varies depending on the type of event.

The arena officially opened in 1962 as the Baltimore Civic Center. It was built on the site of "Old Congress Hall", where the Continental Congress met in 1776. As a major cornerstone for the Inner Harbor redevelopment during the 1980s, it was reopened after renovations and was renamed the Baltimore Arena in 1986. In 2003, it was renamed by 1st Mariner Bank, which purchased naming rights to the arena for 10 years. It was reported that 1st Mariner Bank paid the city $75,000 a year to keep the naming rights to the complex. When the naming rights agreement with 1st Mariner Bank ended in 2013, the arena was briefly returned to its "Baltimore Arena" name, until Royal Farms purchased the naming rights to the arena in September 2014.[3] The new naming rights deal calls for Royal Farms to pay $250,000 annually for five years to the city, and gives Royal Farms first rights to renew/restructure their deal at the end of the contract, or in the event that the city constructs a new arena.[4] The Royal Farms Arena is owned by the city of Baltimore and is currently managed by SMG, a private management company. Annually, the Royal Farms Arena is host to 800,000 people.

A cornerstone to the arena was laid in the arena in 1961 with a vault that included messages from then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy, then-Maryland governor J. Millard Tawes, and then-Baltimore Mayor J. Harold Grady. The vault was opened in 2006.

The current site that was chosen for the Baltimore Civic Center was actually not one of the many sites proposed to the Greater Baltimore Committee in 1955. Among nine suggested locations there were two in Druid Hill Park, three at the end of the Inner Harbor basin (where the World Trade Center and Harborplace are now located), and one in Clifton Park.[5]

History[edit | edit source]

1960s-1970s[edit | edit source]

The arena has been host to many events, ranging from boxing, to music, to sports and to wrestling.

In 1962 and continuing through 1976, the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League played their home games at the Arena. The Clippers withdrew from the AHL in mid-season, 1974–75, to allow the Baltimore Blades (the relocated Michigan Stags) of the World Hockey Association (WHA) to finish their season. The Clippers regrouped for one final AHL season 1975–76. The Royal Farms Arena has hosted two other AHL franchises. The Baltimore Skipjacks lasted from 1981 to 1993. The Baltimore Bandits played two seasons in Baltimore from 1995 to 1997.

In 1962, the Arena hosted a boxing match between Joey Giardello and Johnny Morris.

In 1963, the arena was host to a professional tennis match.

Also in 1963, the arena became the home of the Baltimore Bullets, who would play there until 1973.

The Beatles performed at the arena on Sunday September 13, 1964 to a total of 28,000 screaming fans, they played two performances on that same day, the first performance at 4:00pm and the second at 8:30pm. During their only visit to Baltimore they stayed at the Holiday Inn which housed the Circle One Revolving Restaurant located on the 13th floor. The famed Circle One restaurant (later known as The La Ronde) – now an amazing event space, was once one of the first revolving restaurants in the continental United States, offering stunning 360° city views, it made a full rotation once every hour. The restaurant played host to the legendary Beatles, who dined there following their concert. John Lennon joked to a member of the tour group, "Larry, I hear your whole world was spinning the other night". During the day, two girls attempted to have themselves delivered to the venue in a large box labelled 'Beatles fan mail'. Their efforts were thwarted by a guard in charge of checking all deliveries. Police officers on horseback restrained the fans from storming the building.

On April 3, 1965, defending WWWF champion Bruno Sammartino defeated Gene Kiniski in a return title match. Just a few months later, in January 1966, Kiniski would win the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) title.

In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech, "Race and the Church", before a gathering of Methodist clergy at the Baltimore Civic Center.[6]

The NBA All-Star Game was played at the arena in 1969.

The venue also hosted Led Zeppelin several times through the early 1970s. A couple of scenes from the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same were filmed backstage.

On June 13, 1970, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Civic Center with a last-minute decision to visit from New York and sold out. Was noted to be one of the best performances of the whole 1970 tour and was one of the last shows Jimi played before he died a few months later.

Elvis Presley played the Civic Center twice: Tuesday Nov. 9, 1971, 8:30pm (wearing the Red Lion Suit) and Sunday May 29, 1977 8:30pm (wearing the Mexican Sundial Suit). The latter less than three months prior to his untimely death. Both shows were complete sell-outs.

The Grateful Dead's performance on September 17, 1972, was recorded and later released as Dick's Picks Volume 23. It contains the complete concert, except for the encore, which was "One More Saturday Night". It contains the longest CD version of "The Other One", to date, clocking in at nearly 40 minutes long.

In 1974 The World Team Tennis (WTT) Baltimore Banners played their home games there. Number 1 in the world Jimmy Connors was on that team. After Connors defeated Ken Roswall in Wimbledon they played each other in the arena as a rematch of Wimbledon. Billie Jean King played and coached the Philadelphia Freedoms of the WTT. Also John Newcomb played there in the WTT.

The Civic Center was host to the 1974 and 1975 MEAC Men's Basketball Tournament.

In 1975, professional basketball returned briefly with the Baltimore Claws of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The Memphis Sounds relocated to Baltimore following the 1974–75 ABA season and were first called the Baltimore Hustlers, before changing their name. Troubled financially from the start, the Claws folded after three road exhibition games.[7]

1980s-1990s[edit | edit source]

The Royal Farms Arena was the home of the Major Indoor Soccer League's Baltimore Blast since they arrived in the 1980–1981 season until the league folded in 1992. The Blast won their only championship in the '83-'84 season which was attended by upwards of 11,200 fans. A new version of the team plays at the Royal Farms Arena. The Blast, regardless of incarnation, is now the longest-serving tenant in the arena's history.

In 1986, the arena was host to popular Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti.

In 1989, Anthrax, Exodus and Helloween performed at the arena during the Headbangers Ball Tour.[8][9]

The Royal Farms Arena was the home of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (MILL) and later the National Lacrosse League (NLL) Baltimore Thunder from 1987 through 1999. The Thunder won the inaugural MILL championship. Notable players include Gary Gait, Tom Gravante (head Men's Lacrosse coach at Mount St. Mary's University) and Hugh Donovan.

The Royal Farms Arena was considered a cornerstone location for NWA/WCW wrestling, its northern capital so to speak. The Great American Bash pay-per-view was held at the arena eight times during the life of the promotion, and by the time WCW was bought by WWE, The Great American Bash had been in Baltimore for four of the five previous years. It also hosted SuperBrawl V in 1995. Sting defeated Ric Flair to win his first NWA World Championship at 1990 The Great American Bash, and Ron Simmons upset Vader in 1992 for the WCW title, becoming the first African-American to hold a major world title. The nWo was reformed in 1999 at the Royal Farms Arena with Bret Hart, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Jeff Jarrett. the great american bash 2000

The arena has also hosted many World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE events over the years. Most notably the 1994 King of the Ring, No Mercy (2003), No Way Out 2006, Backlash 2008, Extreme Rules (2010), and TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs (2011), as well as multiple 'Raw and SmackDown!/ECW tapings. Major title changes to take place in the arena include Superstar Billy Graham over Bruno Sammartino in 1977 for the WWWF championship, Tito Santana over Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in 1985 for the WWF Intercontinental title in a steel cage match.

In 1989, the arena was host to the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. Three years later, in 1992, the International Olympic Committee held the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials there. In 1995, the arena was host to the NCAA Men's Basketball Division 1 games (Rounds 1 & 2).

KISS were scheduled to perform during their Hot in the Shade Tour on October 28, 1990, but the show was cancelled for uncertain reasons.

The NBA Washington Bullets played a few home games at the Royal Farms Arena during the 1990s. Their final game at the arena was a victory over the Dallas Mavericks 94-87 on March 29, 1997.

2000s[edit | edit source]

The arena has also been a staple on the PBR's Built Ford Tough Series bull riding tour. It first visited the Arena from 2001 to 2003, then came back again from 2008 to 2010. It will return again in 2012.

In July 2004, the arena was host to the US debut of Japanese rock band L'Arc-en-Ciel, as part of the anime and east Asian culture convention Otakon.

On December 3–4, 2004, the Royal Farms Arena hosted the last Vans Triple Crown Of Freestyle Motocross events in history. The Vans Of FMX recently stopped for FMX's placement in the Dew Tour and also a similar Vans of FMX event course can be found in IFMA Of Freestyle Motocross or the Vans Invitational track.

On February 1, 2006, the arena hosted the first concert by The Rolling Stones, in Baltimore, since 1969, which was at the arena.

On February 19, 2006, WWE PPV No Way Out was held in Baltimore, their first since No Mercy 2003. Kurt Angle defeated The Undertaker to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.

It was selected as the site of the 2006 Miss USA Pageant, for broadcast on live television.

On February 11, 2008, the arena also hosted a rally for presidential candidate Barack Obama.

On April 27, 2008, WWE PPV Backlash was held in Baltimore. Triple H defeated Randy Orton to win the WWE Championship.

On November 20, 2009, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performed at the arena, recreating the entirety of their landmark album Born to Run; it was their first tour stop in Baltimore since 1973.

Several country-pop music acts have made tour stops at the arena, including Carrie Underwood and George Strait.

2010s[edit | edit source]

The arena has also been a staple on the PBR's Built Ford Tough Series bull riding tour. It first visited the Arena from 2001 to 2003, then came back again from 2008 to 2010. It will return again in 2012. Shogun Fights, the first promoter to bring professional Mixed Martial Arts to the state of Maryland, held its second event, Shogun Fights 2, on March 27, 2010. This event occurs twice each year, once in the Spring and again in the Fall.

On April 25, 2010, the arena played host to WWE Extreme Rules. It has then played host to Monday Night Raw on June 20, 2011. This episode was named Power to the People. It has played host to WWE's Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2011 on December 18, 2011. It hosted the season 23 premiere of WWE Monday Night Raw on September 8, 2014 and ended the same WWE Raw season on September 7, 2015, with the main event being a six-man tag team match between John Cena and the Prime Time Players vs. Seth Rollins and The New Day. WWE Payback was held in this arena on May 17, 2015.

The Colonial Athletic Association announced they would be moving their men's basketball tournament to the arena in 2014 under a three-year contract after a 24-year run at the Richmond Coliseum.[10] It is the first time the tournament will be held outside the state of Virginia.

On April 26, 2014, the Royal Farms Arena hosted UFC 172: Jones vs. Teixeira.

On October 20, 2014, RFA held an NBA preseason game between the Washington Wizards, who played several games there in the '90s as the Bullets, and the New Orleans Pelicans.

In still more recent years, the Arena continues holding events such as Garth Brooks (5 SOLD OUT concerts- January 2016), Eagles (July 2015), Prince (May 2015), Stevie Wonder (April 2015).

Proposed replacement[edit | edit source]

On October 16, 2004, The Baltimore Sun revealed that official steps had been taken toward replacing The Arena, then 42 years old. The Maryland Stadium Authority had started soliciting proposals for a feasibility study on building an arena in downtown Baltimore, due on November 1, 2004. According to the request for proposals that was released, the new arena would be built on the same site of Royal Farms Arena and "would have a smaller seating capacity than would be required for an NHL or NBA team" but it doesn't specify a specific seating capacity.[11]

On May 15, 2006, The Baltimore Sun reported that the feasibility study that was started in 2004 had been released publicly and the study stated that the current arena has "served its useful life" and that Baltimore must build a new arena or face the risk of losing events. The study rejected a proposal to repair the arena's aging systems, citing an estimated cost of $60 million, and instead suggested that the city demolish Royal Farms Arena and build a new arena on the same site or elsewhere in Baltimore. Notably the proposed new arena would only seat 15,000 – 16,000 people—the study assumed that Baltimore would never be successful in attracting an NBA team in the future, which would require a minimum of 18,000 – 20,000 seats (an NHL team would still be viable, as evidenced by 15,000-seat arenas such as the Barclays Center and MTS Centre landing NHL franchises in the early 2010s); however, city officials were still open to this idea.

Conceivably, the new arena could be successful in attracting an arena football team and/or a minor league hockey team, bringing more than 200 new jobs and generating up to $1 million in additional tax revenue. City officials have said that the private sector would need to bear the brunt of the estimated $162 million construction cost of the new arena, as the city is also considering giving up ownership of the arena. The Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) stated that it would begin seeking interested developers for the project by June 2007. BDC's President M. J. "Jay" Brodie said it was a "miracle" that the current arena books as many events as it does in its current state. City officials have said the location of the new arena would be dependent on what the developers suggest. Officials stated that they are equally comfortable with keeping the current arena, building the new arena in a new location, then demolishing the current arena, or encouraging a mixed-use development in the site of the current arena. Advocates for downtown, including the Downtown Partnership and the Westside Renaissance, want the new arena to remain in the downtown area.[12]

On November 18, 2007, WJZ 13 reported that seven sites have been submitted to the BDC for a new arena, and the choices will be narrowed down by the Spring of 2008.[13]

On July 24, 2008, it was reported that the new arena will be built on the same site as the current one, with capacity to go upwards of 18,500. It was unknown at that time what would happen to concerts and events while construction gets underway, or who would develop the new arena. However, there have been talks about building a temporary facility for events. The arena was planned to be completed within a three-year period.[14]

On August 27, 2008, The Baltimore Sun reported that developers were looking for designers to build an apartment building and outdoor shopping stores to be a part of the new Royal Farms Arena. Also, the developers announced that they were accepting all design proposals until November 26, 2008, and that, by the Summer of 2009, they planned to make a final design decision.

On December 17, 2008, the Baltimore Examiner reported that the Baltimore Development Corp. had received 4 proposals for the Royal Farms Arena replacement that could take away a "major entertainment venue" for Baltimore for up to "4 years" and the estimated price is $300 million, but could be more depending on additional retail and hotel uses. The arena is reported to be an 18,500-seat venue built at the same location of the current Royal Farms Arena. The four proposals were:

ESmith Legacy and Garfield Traub Development: ESmith Legacy was a team led by former NFL player Emmitt Smith that has offices in Baltimore. This proposal included the following features in addition to the larger arena:

  • 7-screen movie theater
  • 20,000 square feet of retail space
  • 1,000-seat concert venue

Streuver Brothers Eccles & Rouse: A well known Baltimore-based developer. This proposal included:

  • 300-room hotel
  • 43,000 SF of retail space

Cormony Development and Harrison Development: Respectively, Rockville- and Baltimore-based development firms who have been involved since 2007. This proposal includes:

  • 400-room hotel
  • 240,000 SF office tower
  • 12,000 SF to 20,000 SF of retail space

A&R Development, J Street Development Co., and Accent Development Co.: A partnership of Baltimore-based A&R and Washington based J Street and Accent Development under the name Arena Development. This proposal includes:

  • Up to 100,000 SF of retail space

The Baltimore Examiner reported that the BDC could make a decision on the developer as soon as mid-2009.[15]

On July 8, 2009, Arena reported that Baltimore City officials had postponed their plans for constructing a new arena, due in part to the struggling economy, and the officials' decision split between building either an 18,500-seat arena for a possible NBA or NHL franchise, or constructing a mid-size facility for concerts, family events, and minor league sports.[16]

However, on November 12, 2010, with the recession rebounding, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that city officials are considering new sites for a new arena. The plan calls for Royal Farms Arena to remain open, while a new arena is constructed. While Rawlings-Blake believes that the new arena is most likely to be erected in the city's West Side, the Greater Baltimore Committee suggest building the arena as an expansion to the Baltimore Convention Center, to help re-develop the Inner Harbor.[17] The cost would range from $750 to $930 million, since it would include the 18,500-seat arena, 40,000 square foot expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center, an underground garage, and a new 500-room Sheraton hotel; the proposed arena site is where the current Sheraton hotel rests.[18]

On January 14, 2015, David S. Cordish, the chairman and CEO of the Cordish Company, proposed to build a 15,000-16,000 seat waterfront arena, but built with expanded capacity in mind. The arena, accommodated with an outdoor amphitheater and a pedestrian bridge to connect the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill, would cost $450 million and tie up with Harbor East and Power Plant Live.[19]

Transportation[edit | edit source]

The Royal Farms Arena is immediately adjacent to the University Center/Baltimore Street stop on the Baltimore Light Rail. The Charles Center Metro Subway Station and many bus lines are also nearby.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "7,760 Attend Center Opening", October 24, 1962. 
  2. "Center Director 'Optimistic' About Having Opera, Music", March 2, 1960. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Baltimore's Largest Indoor Entertainment Facility Renamed Royal Farms Arena. Retrieved on 27 September 2014.
  4. Royal Farms taking over naming rights to Baltimore Arena. Baltimore Business Journal (September 15, 2014). Retrieved on September 27, 2014.
  5. Report No. 5781 to Greater Baltimore Committee, Inc. on Proposed Civic Center for Baltimore, Nov 1, 1955. (via Enoch Pratt Free Library Maryland History dept.)
  6. University of Baltimore: Riots and Rebirth Project Timeline
  10. CAA Reaches Three-Year Agreement With City of Baltimore to Host 2014-16 CAA Men's Basketball Championships. CAA. Retrieved on 12 December 2012.
  11. Ideas solicited for city arena Requires Site Registration
  15. Andrew Cannarsa. "New downtown arena project draws four interested parties", The Baltimore Examiner, 2008-12-17, p. 16. 
  16. "Baltimore puts off decision on new downtown arena", Arena Digest, 2009-07-08. 
  17. "GBC proposes Inner Harbor redevelopment to expand Convention Center, add sports arena", Baltimore Sun, 2010-11-12. 
  18. "Arena, convention center idea could cost nearly $1B", Baltimore Business Journal, 2010-12-16. 
  19. "Exclusive: Cordish floating plans to build Inner Harbor arena on Piers 5 and 6", Baltimore Business Journal, 2015-12-14. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.