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MSA wants city money for arena study

The Maryland Stadium Authority wants Baltimore City to help pay for a feasibility study on a proposed expanded convention center, new arena and hotel for downtown Baltimore.

The MSA voted Tuesday to approve conducting a feasibility study on a proposed expanded convention center complex, conditional on Baltimore City contributing a significant amount of money for the study.

The MSA also approved feasibility studies for a headquarters and training facility for the Washington Redskins in Bowie, as well as a tennis complex at Troy Park in Elkridge.

That vote came after the MSA’s board debated heavily on whether to conduct the study and if the city should contribute to the study’s cost of $150,000. Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have asked the stadium authority to pay for the entire study, which would examine how an expanded convention center and attached arena would increase the city’s convention and tourism business.

“They’re asking us to foot the whole bill,” said board member Leonard J. Attman. “Here, they’re asking us to pay for something already approved in their minds.”

But fellow member Frederick W. Puddester said the stadium authority should pay for the entire study because O’Malley specifically requested it.

Chairman John Morton III then tasked Maryland Stadium Authority Executive Director Michael J. Frenz with meeting with city officials to negotiate whether — and how much — the city should contribute to the study’s cost.

The conditional agreement was approved by six of the seven board members — Kaliope Parthemos, deputy mayor of economic and neighborhood development, abstained.

Parthemos said that it’s not unusual for other parties to contribute money for studies, adding that she didn’t know if the city will contribute for the convention center study.

In the event the city and the Maryland Stadium Authority aren’t able to come to an agreement, it is unclear what would happen to the approval of the feasibility study because the authority has never approved a study conditionally, said Public Information Officer Jan Hardesty.

But even after negotiations with the city, the study request has to be sent to the General Assembly. There, budget committees would have 30 days to review the request before granting the approval.

Tuesday’s meeting was also marked by a last-minute addition to its agenda with the request for the tennis park feasibility study. Howard County officials began discussions for a study in April, but formally sent a request Monday. That study would cost $75,000, and $40,000 would be paid by the county, while the rest is paid by MSA.

The Howard County study would examine the market and economic projections for a tennis complex, which would seat 3,500 in a proposed outdoor stadium, said Project Executive Gary A. McGuigan.

County officials also requested that the MSA explore other uses that could complement the tennis complex, including a potential training complex for Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. That training complex could include grass and artificial fields and an indoor facility.

Officials from D.C. United could not be reached for comment.

The Maryland Stadium Authority also received a letter from Prince George’s officials on May 31 asking for a feasibility study for a Redskins headquarters and training facility. The market and economic analysis would cost about $25,000, a third of which would be paid for by the county, and the remaining two-thirds would be paid by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Prince George’s County Assistant Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure David S. Iannucci presented the request at the meeting.

“We want to look at economic impacts, environmental impacts, traffic impacts. This is truly preliminary to see if this makes sense,” Iannucci said.

The team’s current headquarters, Redskins Park, is in Ashburn, Va. The move could potentially bring 100 to 200 jobs to the area, as well as bring team players who may move to the area to be closer to training, he said.

Iannucci said the property at Bowie’s MARC station is of particular interest for the project. The county-owned land is about 80 to 90 acres in size, although some of that land includes wetlands, he said.