February 19, 2018
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  • Located in Crownsville, Chesapeake Bayhawks Village would include a 10,000-seat stadium, parking spaces and a promenade featuring restaurants, shops and possibly a hotel.
    Photo Provided
    Located in Crownsville, Chesapeake Bayhawks Village would include a 10,000-seat stadium, parking spaces and a promenade featuring restaurants, shops and possibly a hotel.
  • The three-phase proposal involves the county fairgrounds and former Crownsville Hospital Center.
    Photo Provided
    The three-phase proposal involves the county fairgrounds and former Crownsville Hospital Center.
  • A 10,000-seat stadium would provide an appropriate venue for Major League Lacrosse games.
    Photo Provided
    A 10,000-seat stadium would provide an appropriate venue for Major League Lacrosse games.
  • Josh Byrne, 2017 MLL Rookie of the Year
    Photo Provided
    Josh Byrne, 2017 MLL Rookie of the Year
  • The Chesapeake Bayhawks currently play their homes games at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
    Photo Provided
    The Chesapeake Bayhawks currently play their homes games at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Chesapeake Bayhawks Announce Ambitious Plan To Build Stadium And Athletic Complex In Crownsville

Zach Sparks
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February 6, 2018

Twenty years ago, nearly 69,000 spectators watched as Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway sprang helicopter-style into the air to gain a first down en route to his first Super Bowl win against the Green Bay Packers. More than 65,400 fans observed as New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera induced a fly-out to escape a bases-loaded jam and cap a Yankees four-game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the World Series. The Chicago Fire captured the MLS Cup with a 2-0 victory over D.C. United as 51,000 people cheered from the stands.

Major League Lacrosse (MLL) would not exist until 2001. The league’s most recent championship in August 2017 drew a crowd of 7,543.

Mark Burdett — a former longtime Severna Park resident, Severn School graduate and current president of the five-time MLL champion Chesapeake Bayhawks — believes the Chesapeake Sports and Entertainment Group (CSEG) can serve as pioneers in the world of lacrosse under the leadership of himself, owner and CEO Brendan Kelly, and Dave Cottle, the team’s coach and general manager. Not only would their grand proposal bring the only professional lacrosse stadium in the nation to Anne Arundel County, but that site would offer shopping and a complex for youth and adult athletic activities.

So, what’s the major obstacle aside from funding? Community concerns about traffic and the environment.

Chesapeake Bayhawks Village

The details are subject to negotiation, but the initial blueprint laid out by the CSEG is a three-phase project that includes two Crownsville properties. Phase I would bring a 6,000-seat stadium to the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, which is located between Generals Highway and Crownsville Road. After a groundbreaking in 2018 and completion in 2020, the Bayhawks would relocate from their current home, the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, to play at the fairgrounds temporarily. The amphitheater could also be used to host graduations, concerts and other large events for groups that cannot find a venue.

Phase II involves roughly 600 acres of the 900-acre Crownsville Hospital Center, which, aside from a handful of tenants, has sat vacant since 2004. CSEG has designed plans for a 10,000-seat stadium, parking spaces and a promenade featuring restaurants, shops and space for a 300-room hotel. Asbestos and lead paint abatement is part of the renovation. The project would have an estimated completion date of 2022 and a total price tag of $170 million to $190 million.

But perhaps the biggest draw for county citizens is the potential addition of 20 turf fields where children from Green Hornets and other leagues could play soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball and other sports.

About 600 accredited nonprofit organizations — from sports teams to homeowners associations and scout troops — currently compete for use of county facilities. Colleen Joseph, who handles event scheduling for the Department of Recreation and Parks along with many other duties, lauded her team for accommodating as many groups as possible, but a shortage of available fields presents a challenge.

“A lot of our athletic groups are growing,” Joseph said. “They need more space and more facilities. It’s frustrating for us and for them. We understand that they want to grow, but we can’t give them what we don’t have.”

Having an additional 20 turf fields would be beneficial for the county both from a recreational perspective and a financial one. Citing a segment on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that said travel youth sports is annually a $9 billion industry and growing 20 percent per year, Burdett estimates that the facilities will generate $125 million each year.

Joseph said tournaments that use county facilities have produced as much as $1.5 million in one weekend. “Those organizations like to have all of the events in one location so it creates a festival atmosphere,” she said of tournament promoters.

Right now, Joseph said, the county doesn’t have that capability. The scheduling department might utilize six to seven fields at Kinder Farm Park in Millersville, six fields at Annapolis High School or eight fields at South River High School.

As the discussion about revenue gets underway, inevitably people are asking, “Who’s going to pay for this?”

Your Land Is My Land

The Chesapeake Sports and Entertainment Group plans to rent both the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds and hospital site, with the Maryland Stadium Authority financing the stadium.

The fairgrounds are owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, although the county is considering a bid to assume ownership. CSEG wants to share that property. A former asylum known for physical and mental torture, the Crownsville hospital grounds are owned by the Maryland Department of Health, which is currently leasing space to several entities including the Anne Arundel County Food Bank and Hope House Treatment Center.

Burdett said that a museum would be created to honor the culture of the area. Although the land has no known archaeological sites, some of the 69 buildings are considered by the Maryland Historical Trust to be potentially historic, and many are in poor condition.

Neither the Department of Natural Resources nor the Department of Health has expressed interest in sharing the land with the Bayhawks. Yet, team ownership sees it as a win-win.

During home games at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the Bayhawks might draw a crowd of 4,000 to 5,000. “We want to make it a more intimate setting,” Burdett said. “We need to create scarcity and create demand and create real interest in the product.”

The Best Proposal?

Owen McEvoy, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Schuh, said many developers have sought to enhance the site of the old hospital.

“I think probably 10 years ago, they were talking about putting a horse park out there,” McEvoy said. “On occasion, some developers have come up with wide-scale townhouse-like development communities, kind of like what you see in Parole.”

Crownsville residents have expressed concern about traffic along Interstate 97, environmental impact, and the potential displacement of tenants at the hospital grounds and event organizers at the fairgrounds.

“It seemed like they wanted to build Disney World in my neighborhood,” said Janet Holbrook, a Herald Harbor resident who attended two community meetings regarding the proposal. “I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s a huge complex. It will affect the South River and Severn River watersheds. And Anne Arundel County doesn’t have a great record for forest conservation.”

Burdett agreed that a I-97 ramp would be needed to alleviate congestion, and he said CSEG would work to preserve the abutting Bacon Ridge Natural Area, but he challenged the notion that Chesapeake Bayhawks Village would completely disrupt civilians’ way of life.

“This is not townhouses. This is not big-boxes,” he said. “The magnitude is not nearly what people say. We’re talking about teams and their parents, not [large] spectator sports every day.”

Holbrook said she would like to see improvements to existing facilities like Corridor Park before new ones are added.

While it’s largely a state matter because the county owns neither Crownsville site, the CSEG would need county council approval to rezone the property and extend water and sewer utilities to part of the area. Councilmen Chris Trumbauer and Andrew Pruski have met with constituents to discuss the Bayhawks’ proposition. Whatever happens, McEvoy said it should not negatively affect the quality of life for the citizens of Crownsville.

“There has to be public input,” McEvoy said. “To their credit, the Bayhawks have started that process. I think they’re taking into account what the community is saying. But first and foremost, the county executive wants to best represent [the constituents’] interests. He does not support any plan that is going to add one more car onto Generals Highway.”

Burdett feels he can work with the community to address any issues and that Chesapeake Bayhawks Village can take Anne Arundel County sports and Major League Lacrosse to new heights.

Referring to plans to keep one-third of the property as open space, Burdett said, “Why not whitewash it with green and let youth sports be the dominating feature? If this model works, there is no reason other MLL teams can’t do the same thing.”


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