A rendering shows what the Baltimore Arena could look like after renovations are completed by 2023. The renovated arena will be able to accommodate 14,000 guests for concerts, sporting events and more. Rendering courtesy of SCI Architects.

Grammy award-winning musical artist Pharrell Williams is investing in the renovation of the Baltimore Arena, with the project estimated to cost $200 million, officials announced Thursday.

The Los Angeles-based developer Oak View Group held a ground breaking event for the project Thursday. Crews began work on the project just after the completion of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments in February.

The developers estimate the project will cost $200 million, up from the $150 million estimate that developers gave in March.

The Oak View Group, Fundamental Advisors and Thirty Five Ventures will fully fund the price of reconstructing the arena, paid for through a combination of private debt and equity.
The developers will lease the building for the next 30 years through a new entity called Baltimore Arena Co.

Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, said the $200 million investment by his company and its partners “will be a catalyst to rejuvenate downtown Baltimore with new life, new jobs, and new economic stimulus.”

Leiweke added that the transformation of the 60-year-old, city-owned arena “will create a world-class point of destination for live entertainment for all of Baltimore.”

Anyone can tune into the project’s progress, captured by a 24-hour OxBlue construction camera inside the building.

Construction needs to be completed by early 2023 in order for Baltimore to host the CIAA tournaments again on Feb. 20, 2023.

In fact, the CIAA tournaments have extended their stay in Baltimore through at least 2025.

Once redeveloped, the arena will “serve as an anchor to completely revitalize our downtown community for generations to come,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement.

“I’m proud that this project reaffirms our commitment to further reinvest in small minority-owned businesses and create a future that uplifts us all,” Scott said. “In a time when so many in our city, as well as across the country, are feeling the rising costs of goods and services, this project is a meaningful step towards reinvigorating our local economy through the creation of more jobs, new businesses, tourism, and other growth opportunities that will benefit all Baltimoreans. Baltimore’s renaissance is on the horizon.”

The arena will be able to accommodate 14,000 guests once it is fully renovated. It will host concerts; family shows; community, corporate, and private events; and sporting events such as UFC, tennis, boxing, NBA exhibition games, NCAA events, tournaments, and more.

Williams, who grew up in Virginia Beach, said he is “very committed” to all of the D.C., Maryland and Virginia – or “DMV” – region, including Baltimore.

“This city has so much to offer through its growing music scene, entertainment, and sports, and it’s clear the time is right for Baltimore Arena to breathe new life into the region,” Williams said in a statement. “I believe in this region, this project, and I’m thrilled to invest in its future.”

Brooklyn Nets basketball player Kevin Durant, who co-founded Thirty Five Ventures with his business partner Rich Kleiman, is glad to be part of the Baltimore Arena renovation project with the Oak View Group.

“Oak View Group is the best at what they do, and we’re proud to be able to work with them on a project that is going to bring not just sports and entertainment, but jobs and opportunity, to the Baltimore community,” Durant said in a statement. “It’s great to be getting the process started.”

The arena renovations include removing the permanent stage, adding seats and suites, refurbishing concourses, upgrading concessions areas, and changing the building’s appearance.

The project will improve sustainability with locally sourced materials, LED lighting, low flow and waterless fixtures, and more.

The arena will also be outfitted with better acoustics; touchless and self-serve technologies for food, beverage and merchandise purchases; back-of-house renovations; upgrades to structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting and fire protection systems; construction of plumbing, electrical, fire protection, and lighting; and updates to the arena’s telecommunications infrastructure, wireless network, and video, network, and security systems.

“Baltimore Development Corporation is thrilled to see progress on the Baltimore Arena’s renovation,” Colin Tarbert, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, said in a statement. “It’s been a pleasure working with Oak View Group to reach this milestone and we are excited to see the final results in early 2023. This major private investment will drive further development on Downtown’s westside.”

Clark Construction Group, which has worked in Baltimore for more than 45 years, will oversee the arena project.

Ryan McKenzie, Clark’s senior vice president in charge of Baltimore operations, said the company has worked on more than 70 projects in Baltimore and is excited to be part of the arena renovation.

“Clark is delighted to partner with OVG, BDC, and 35V to bring to life their vision to transform this arena into a world-class entertainment venue for the Baltimore community.”

Developers expect the renovation project to create about 500 construction jobs over the next 12 months.

The team has set a goal to award 27% of construction subcontracts to Minority Business Enterprises and 10% to Women’s Business Enterprises.

SCI architects is the lead designer on the project.

OVG also worked to ensure Minority Depository Institutions were among its lending partners. Harbor Bank of Maryland, a Black-owned bank headquartered in Baltimore, is serving as a member of the loan syndicate led by Truist Bank.

“When entities like OVG bank Black, they demonstrate their support for real economic equity by supporting the institutions that are at the front lines of this country’s racial wealth gap,” National Black Bank Foundation co-founder Brandon Comer said in a statement.

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...