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The Maryland Senate gave tentative approval late Friday to two measures that top officials in Baltimore and Prince George’s County have been pursuing since the start of this year’s legislative session.
One of the bills — House Bill 896 — would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to perform $1.2 billion in upgrades to the city’s professional sports stadiums. The funding would be evenly divided between Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
How the funding would be used is not clear, though most stadium retrofits in the modern era have involved luxury boxes, premium seating, social gathering areas and sports betting venues.
The other measure approved on Friday — House Bill 897 — would allow the stadium authority to spend $400 million on an array of recreational and entertainment venues in Central Prince George’s County.
The proposed facilities include:
- Magnet Charter School
- Central Library
- Cultural Center
- Basketball/Volleyball Fieldhouse
- Central Avenue
- Market Hall
- Wayne K. Curry Civic Plaza
The facilities would be constructed near FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders, as part of a “stadium district.” Commanders owner Daniel Snyder wants a new stadium and he is said to be eyeing locations in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) hosted a meeting with Commanders President Jason Wright at the governor’s mansion on March 31.
Unlike FedEx Field, which sits isolated, across from a defunct shopping mall, Snyder wants his new stadium to be part of a “mini city” that includes a high-end hotel, a sports betting venue and upscale mixed-use development.
Prince George’s leaders stress that they intend to pursue their vision for “Downtown Largo” whether or not the Commanders build a new stadium next to FedEx Field.
On Thursday, Hogan and Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) broke ground on a cancer research and treatment center at the new Capital Regional Medical Center, part of the University of Maryland Medical System. He called the cancer center “just one part of our bold plan for the future of Prince George’s County.”
“Thanks to County Executive Alsobrooks’ vision, we are partnering with her on a shared commitment to move forward with a $400 million dollar investment in the Blue Line Corridor project, to bring more jobs and economic development to this area,” he said.
(On Tuesday, gubernatorial hopeful Rushern Baker (D), Alsobrooks’s predecessor, laid claim to the “Downtown Prince George’s Entertainment District” in a social media post, and he applauded the General Assembly for supporting “my proposal.”)
On Tuesday, the stadium authority’s board voted to begin work on a memorandum of understanding with Prince George’s county government that would allow the authority to oversee construction of the new venues.
Sen. Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s) noted on Friday that the stadium authority has built projects all over the state during its 35-year history, but never in Prince George’s.
“This is a huge opportunity for us,” said Angie Rodgers, the county’s top economic development official.
The stadium authority has “the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for these kinds of facilities,” she added.
Rodgers said the goal is to have an area that draws visitors year-round, nut just on football game days.
House Bill 896 does not include any money to construct a new Commanders stadium, but the county’s MOU would likely allow the authority to demolish FedEx Field. Snyder owns the stadium and the land it sits on, and demolition would only occur as part of an agreement, multiple officials said.
In addition to the funding for the Prince George’s venues, House Bill 897 would also allow up to $200 million to upgrade minor league baseball stadiums in Maryland and $27 million per year to fund bus rapid transit service in Montgomery County.