How Baltimore's "Entertainment Corridor" Continues to Fuel Regional Tourism
Over the last decade Greater Baltimore has bolstered its reputation in fast-growing industries like biohealth, cybersecurity, and education. But long before the region was a leader in these areas, Greater Baltimore was an example of how to drive economic growth through sports, entertainment, and recreation. In calendar year (CY) 2016, Maryland saw a 4 percent increase in visitors; in 2016 The Daily Beast ranked Baltimore the third hottest destination to visit.
Since the development of the Inner Harbor in the 1980s—in its first year, it drew more visitors than Disneyland— elected officials and economic developers from across the world have sought to emulate the success of this popular tourist attraction. Redevelopment of the City’s renowned waterfront continued throughout the 1990s, with the construction of Camden Yards—an influential project that sparked a trend in how cities across the country built ballparks.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is lauded as one of the best ballparks in the country and after celebrating its silver anniversary just last year, it was ranked the “second best ballpark in baseball” by Forbes.
Rounding out the Camden Yards Sports Complex was the construction of M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. The two together served as a catalyst for change, prompting additional development downtown over the years.
One such development was the opening of Horseshoe Casino in 2014, anchoring the southern end of the two stadiums along I-95—the East Coast’s most heavily traveled highway with more than 42 million cars passing through each year.
Realizing the value and potential in Baltimore’s “southern gateway,” the casino’s development arm has been purchasing surrounding properties in an effort to transform the industrial area into an entertainment district. In May, Dallas-based Topgolf announced they would be opening a facility in 2020, making Baltimore home to one of its more than 40 driving ranges in 19 states.
“We had a vision to be more than a casino,” said Erin Chamberlin, regional president and general manager for Caesars Entertainment Corp., operator of Horseshoe. “We wanted to be a catalyst for job creation and economic development. ...This is the city’s next entertainment district.”
Horseshoe is not alone in its efforts. In 2016, a development group announced it would resurrect Hammerjacks—a concert hall and club that closed in 2006—in the area. And the Paramount—a New York concert venue—was reported to have been scouting the area.
The latest string of revitalization efforts for the “entertainment district” is on par with Baltimore’s history of sports and recreation. Since 1870, Pimlico has hosted the Preakness Stakes, and the Fair Hill Races in Cecil County have been running since 1934. In 2006, the Volvo Ocean Race was located in both Baltimore and Annapolis. And even baseball legend Babe Ruth was born only a few blocks from today’s Oriole Park.
With an eye to the future, Greater Baltimore embraces its history and connects its past to its present, the Inner Harbor to the entertainment district, and the region to the world.