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Carousel poised to return to Inner Harbor

After going without a carousel for nearly 18 months, visitors to the Inner Harbor will soon be able to again ride a childhood favorite that had been around for more than a century.

The city’s Board of Estimates is scheduled Wednesday to approve a five-year lease agreement between Charm City Carousel Entertainment LLC, of Stevensville, and the Baltimore Development Corp. that will bring a 36-foot wide carousel to an empty plot between the Maryland Science Center and Rash Field.

The carousel’s installation marks a return to a 106-year-old tradition that was lost in January 2012, when the former carousel at that site fell into disrepair. The owner, Richard Knight, told The Baltimore Sun that city red tape prevented him from upgrading his carousel and obtaining a food vendor license.

A petition on www.change.org to save the carousel drew 865 signatures, but ultimately Knight and the city could not reach an agreement to keep the carousel operating.

Wednesday’s vote is to approve a $38,000 rent for the remaining six months of 2013 and then $50,000 annually for the remaining four years. Mark Rosenzweig, vice president at Charm City Carousel, said he hopes to open early this summer.

“[We are] honored to have been selected by the mayor’s office to bring a classic carousel back” to Baltimore, he said. “Our goal is to provide clean, wholesome family entertainment to those visiting the Inner Harbor.”

Nearby businesses are welcoming the carousel’s return.

“Some people have come in and asked about it,” said Kat Hunt, a supervisor at Breaker’s Café, a restaurant at the Maryland Science Center. Hunt believes it will make attract more customers, adding that even out-of-state tourists have asked about the carousel.

Hunt, a native Baltimorean who has worked at Breaker’s Café for 22 years, said the old carousel did extremely well before it fell into disrepair.

Scott Steel, a manager at Watermark Cruises at the Inner Harbor, said the carousel will definitely contribute to business and Watermark may offer specials for families attracted by the carousel. Other nearby businesses, including a smoothie stand and a Rita’s water ice, also expect to gain a boost from the carousel.

Tickets will be available at $3 per person and are cheaper in bulk, Rosenzweig said. The carousel will open at 11 a.m. most days and will close depending on the weather. The only qualification to ride the 30 horses and two chariots unaccompanied is to be taller than 42 inches.

“There is no more iconic ride than the classical carousel,” Rosenzweig said. “We believe the Charm City Carousel will be a perfect complement to the Maryland Science Center, National Aquarium and other amazing attractions.”