Written by: Kyle Andrews – Staff Writing Intern (@)
In the 2013-14 NBA preseason, the Wizards took on the New York Knicks, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Bullets’ relocation to Baltimore and it was also the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Arena (now the Royal Farms Arena). These same Baltimore Bullets would move to Landover, MD before the 1973-74 season. The Capital Bullets would eventually become the Washington Bullets, although they played in the same Capital Centre.
During this game, Sam Cassell, who is Baltimore native and graduate of Dunbar High School, was an assistant coach for Washington at the time. Along with fellow Baltimore native and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Baltimore was well-represented within the game. Fans packed the house and I vividly remember sitting front and center for it.
If you aren’t familiar with the basketball culture in Baltimore, we absolutely adore the sport. It is something that we would stop everything to watch. One of our city’s legends, Aquille Carr, was known as “The Crimestopper”. Baltimore is like any larger city in the United States, it has its issues with crime. However, Carr brought everyone in the city together with his flashy play.
Through the mid-1990’s, the Bullets still played a few home games in Baltimore. It was a cool occasion for the fans in Baltimore, who had stayed loyal after the team had relocated. Then, the team became the Washington Wizards, a name that is still rarely uttered by the mouths of fans from Baltimore. Those Wizards, owned by the late Abe Pollin, then moved into the then-new MCI Center.
Their colors were changed from red, white, and blue to royal blue, black, and bronze. These colors were the same as the Washington Capitals’ colors at the time. These were officially the Dark Ages for Baltimore basketball fans, who wouldn’t see their team return to Baltimore until 2013. Now it’s time for redemption.
The Wizards have seemed to reach out to Baltimore fans in a huge way in these recent years. They had the “Baltimore Basketball Classic” from 2013-2014 at Royal Farms Arena and just last season, the Wizards began to wear “Baltimore Pride” uniforms. The uniforms are a take on the Bullets uniforms from 1969-1973 that were worn in Baltimore.
There is one hurdle to the Wizards returning to Baltimore on a yearly basis. To be completely frank, it is Royal Farms Arena. It has a huge stage instead of seats in one end of the arena. Compounded with a crumbling infrastructure and impeded views throughout the top part of the stadium, it hurts Baltimore’s chances of getting an NBA game or two from the Wizards.
I believe that the pros of bringing more games to Baltimore, outweigh the cons. Many nights in Washington, the seats are empty. It is a transient city, with a great deal of residents that don’t hold any allegiances to the team. However, many here in Baltimore would be more than willing to pack seats in Baltimore for a game or two during the regular season and preseason.
It could make Wizards owner Ted Leonsis a great deal of cash. Leonsis also owns two Arena Football League franchises. One franchise will play in Washington D.C. and another will play in Baltimore. Depending on the success of the AFL franchise in Baltimore, Leonsis would most likely think about giving good old Royal Farms Arena a fighting chance.
This goes without saying, but Baltimore needs to replace their eyesore of an arena. It seems like they are in the process of completing this. In an article from Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal, it was explained that the city could be in talks for a new arena:
“A Maryland Board of Public Works discussion about the long-delayed State Center project Wednesday turned into a conversation about sports as Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot signaled they are eyeing the possibility of a new sports arena at the site in Midtown Baltimore.”
With a new arena possibly being built in Baltimore, the Wizards would have a better venue to play in, as well as a fresh collective of fans. A basketball-hungry city full of fans of the game, to former players themselves, it could be an experience of a lifetime. It was a success during the preseason, so I’d say “Give it a shot.”