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City gets 2 proposals for a new carousel at the Inner Harbor

Two Maryland companies are proposing to bring a carousel back to the Inner Harbor.

Charm City Carousel Entertainment LLC of Stevensville and TC Amusements in partnership with Crown Foods Inc. of Severn submitted proposals to the city for a new ride to go on the site of the city’s former merry-go-round attraction, between Rash Field and the Maryland Science Center.

The financial difficulties of Richard H. Knight, the former owner of the Inner Harbor’s carousel, forced the city to pull the plug on his attraction in January. Knight had operated the carousel for three decades.

After Knight’s departure, the Baltimore Development Corp. and the Department of Recreation and Parks issued a request for proposals to bring another family attraction to the space.

Though that didn’t have to be a carousel, those were the two proposals it received, the BDC said Friday.

“We’re analyzing them, particularly the proposed lease terms,” said M.J. “Jay” Brodie, president of the BDC. Those terms include the length of the lease and cost of rent.

“They both seem very experienced and avid,” he said, adding that both companies have operated carousels in other cities.

Charm City Carousel Entertainment is run by Chief Executive Officer Manuel Gonzalez and Chief Operating Officer Ed Hiller. The two have proposed a classic carousel ride, 34 feet in diameter with 30 animal figures and two chariots.

TC Amusements, owned by Ted Shaw and Chris Chamberlin, is pitching an attraction with local flair. Thirty feet in diameter, the carousel would feature figures that represent the Baltimore area, such as the blue crab, Baltimore Raven, Baltimore Oriole, rockfish and a train engine.

The city “invested a few dollars” to clean up the site, which is owned by the Department of Recreation and Parks, but no additional city money will need to go into making either of the proposed carousels come to fruition, Brodie said.

While Knight’s carousel came to an end after a 30-year ride, Brodie said he thinks another carousel could survive in the same space, as long as it was properly operated and well-designed.

Knight had failed to make payments to the city and had “operation problems,” such as erratic hours and equipment that was not in good shape, Brodie said.

Brodie said he hopes to be able to make a recommendation to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office within the next two months as to which proposed ride would be “most attractive to the future clients — the families and children,” he said.

Nearly 15 million visitors come to the Inner Harbor annually, according to previous BDC estimates.

But having interest doesn’t necessarily mean a merry-go-round will get another shot in Charm City. The BDC could choose not to go forward with either proposal, as it has done after previous solicitations.

In February 2011, the BDC issued a request for proposals for new attractions that would get tourists and visitors to be physically active around the harbor or involve travel opportunities.

Though it received nine proposals, from volleyball courts to observation towers to zip lines and kayak tours, none was selected.

“We spent a considerable time reviewing them and discussing them. … There didn’t seem to be one that was attractive enough to proceed, so we didn’t,” Brodie said.