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June 9, 2010

Losing ESPN Zone would be a blow for the Inner Harbor

espn zoneDid you hear the news? ESPN Zone, one of the Inner Harbor's most prominent restaurant/bars, could be closing.

Disney, which owns ESPN Zone, is reportedly shuttering all of the ESPN Zones that are not directly tied to a Disney property. Baltimore's ESPN Zone, which opened in 1998, was the chain's first location.

As a tourist attraction, ESPN Zone has served its purpose well. Losing it would be a blow to the Inner Harbor -- akin to losing the nearby Hard Rock Cafe. But news about ESPN Zone possibly closing shouldn't come as a surprise ...

 

Chances are, if you live in Baltimore, you didn't go there much. ESPN Zone seems to have always had more of an appeal to tourists than locals. That's why it was such a perfect fit in the Inner Harbor. Kids liked the arcade games, parents liked the sports games, broadcast on dozens of TVs, big and small.

Celebrities occasionally dropped by ESPN Zone for parties and dinner, and local athletes regularly held events there. But in recent years, the shine has worn off.

ESPN Zone's wall of TVs seems less impressive now than it did 10 years ago, especially if you have an HD flat screen TV at home. And arcade games in general aren't as appealing as they used to be, thanks to Nintendo Wii, XBox 360 and the like. 

I've been to ESPN Zone a few times over the years, and lately, it just feels tired. That's why the closure announcement doesn't seem far fetched. I just wonder what will replace it. Do the folks in Remington still not want that Wal-Mart?

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:45 PM | | Comments (82)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Comments

That opens a space for a new and exciting theme bar/retaurant, like, oh, C.H.U.D.'s – The Place for C.H.U.D.s.

Remington here. We do not. ("Specialty food store" my tukhus.) An Inner Harbor Wal-Mart would go nicely across the street from the world's most bizarrely placed Best Buy.

All joking aside, I agree the ESPN Zone is a loss (even if the only time I went there was because my roommate footed the bill). I think a similar concept could work well if promoted right.

But ESPN has the name recognition to be a draw, similar to Hard Rock. What could get people to come and be both family and adult-friendly? Dave & Busters/Jillians? Major League baseball? Food Network/Top Chef? I dunno...

Good Riddance.

Remember when Planet Hollywood was going to save the inner harbor? Remember when it didn't? Remember when it closed down with its tail between its legs and something better opened up in that space? I do.

The less disney-fied, corporate, and tacky our city is, the better!

Dude, jmgiordano has been pushing for a Dave & Busters downtown for years. I hope like hell some Dave & Busters franchisers are reading this. It would be HUGE in the ESPN Zone spot. Huge.

Having only been there once in the last 8-9 years (for a work lunch, at that), I can't say I'd "miss" it. But I agree that it's good for its location and like the idea that local sports teams (players and coaches) have a local bar/restaurant type venue to host radio shows / press conferences / meet & greets, etc. Plus (and I have no idea why) they seem to occasionally have bands playing on the outdoor deck in the summer.

As far as what should / shouldn't replace it, I definitely think it should remain a bar/restaurant and not a Walmart. And while it would probably never happen, I think it would be a great idea for DuClaw to reopen its downtown location here (albeit with better service). It's a more appropriate spot than Fells Point and I think they'd do pretty well.

Al always, the stock answer: "Propose a viable alternative."

The only local company that could afford the astronomical rents demanded in Inner Harbor would be one owned by a certain Mr. Angelos, and by this October maybe THEY couldn't afford it.

The problems with Wal-Mart being down there is that 1) locals wouldn't be able to park nearby, and 2) any tourists most likely have their fill of Wal-Mart at home--nothing unusual about it.

Also, I was kinda kidding about the Walmart thing.

Can you say - Slots!

I agree with Baltimore Chop... GOOD RIDDANCE! And Sam, seriously? Dave and Busters? And I thought you were cool.

What this city needs is more people like Deborah Patterson at http://www.artblocks.org/home.html

She says "that if you create authentic places, not manufactured, they become destinations." That is exactly what this city needs.

That would be nice spot for the slots but really it's not a big deal here. One spot closes and Dick's last Resort open. So it the way of restaurant life.

Cant see Dave and Busters going there since there is one at Arundel Mills already, might be a good spot for "the anchor Bar" home of the buffalo wings.

Bill Bateman's!

I think I ate there 3 or 4 times. I recall way overpriced, marginal bar food.

I will miss the evening outdoor dock concerts by local bands sponsored by 98ROCK.

Harbor Arts and Entertainment

It's not just Baltimore...

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_15259821?source=rss

It's sad, but I can't see much besides something corporate occupying that space in this economy. Baltimore's just not a "lifestyle" city where people go to destinations to spend money outside of the weekends to maintain that level of rent.

I do like the idea of DuClaw though, or perhaps parceling it up into a nightlife type of complex with several restaurants/lounges to compliment PPL across the street.

Hopefully, it doesn't stay empty long...it was vacant for years before they decided to do something with it. Remember PT Flaggs?

It wouldn't be too hard to change the "ESPN" on everything to "Awesome." Probably would only have to close for a few days

I used to work at the Zone. It doesn't really surprise me that it's closing - it never had drink specials or even good food. People could take a cab to Canton or Fed Hill and get cheaper drinks and better food. I feel bad for the employees of the Zone.

Bill Batemans came and went, they were in Power Plant Live and failed shortly after opening

chop you're fighting the tide on this one, i admire your gusto but the inner harbor is supposed to be our cash cow and that sort of necessitates a level of familiarity with fat out of towners.

i think a dave and busters type place is probably the only type of thing you could logically put in a space that large, successfully, if run correctly. granted i'd rather see the space occupied by original homegrown ideas.

MAKE IT THE NEW HAMMERJACKS AND/OR STEELTOWN!! CALL IT HAMMERSTEEL!!! HAMMERTOWN! XTREME HAMMERTOWN!!

(or C.H.U.D.s)

How about Iguana Cantina 2! I mean the original was only 1 block away, and the espnzone location is large enough to at least hold double the amount of trash that place held. So the streets will be clean for a while.

I know I am getting tired of going out to bars and seeing baltimore finest with there little mustaches, tilted hats and the look of "if i dont fight someone my night wasn't worth it" - we all get it you are tuff. Now they all just need a place to go and the espnzone location seems great!

Good stuff, Evan.

How about X.T.R.E.M.E. C.H.U.D.s?

Make sure you try our famous CHUD-tini!

Bring Back P.T. Flaggs dance club!

How we convert it to a downtown Amish market. Fresh produce from Lancaster County straight to Baltim....wait, they do what??

Sadly, the probability of a C.H.O.A.D.S is more likely.

What about Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant?

Why does ESPN have to be controlled by Disney in the first place? I am sure if ESPN owned thse stores they could easily stay open and sustain themselves because of ESPN's international name recognition.

If we're talking over hyped chains I'd like to vote for a Margaritaville like the one in Las Vegas

@Mark, Disney owns ESPN and ABC too. So if ESPN owned them, that means Disney owns them.

@ drunk_richard- Margaritaville would work but they aren't that good. On the same line, Bubba Gump's would also work.

The coolest place would probably be House of Blues. I understand that there is Rams Head and Pier VI but a House of Blues would do very well there.

Dave and Busters would ruin the Harbor. I like the idea of a brewery there. Maybe a Gordon Biersch? Lots of potential. Dick's Last Resort will only last 2 years over there.

hahahahahahahaha... Another Cordish Flop. Can't wait to see Whiskey Bar go down in flames along with that country bar they are planning.
If they can get their heads out of their #$%$# long enough to get to know their home city just maybe we can get an original concept!!

What this city needs is more people like Deborah Patterson at http://www.artblocks.org/home.html

She says "that if you create authentic places, not manufactured, they become destinations." That is exactly what this city needs.

In the Inner Harbor, really? The entire place is the antithesis of organic.

In the Inner Harbor, really? The entire place is the antithesis of organic.

----

And that's including the water.

@D- I totally remember the PT Flaggs club! Thanks for the laugh!

If only ESPN Zone would have taken me up on my totally original marketing slogan:

"Get in the Zone. ESPN Zone."

It would have made them millions.

We need corporate in that part of town. They're the only ones that can handle the rent. Would be great if it was something that would help the local hotels fill up with corporate events. ESPN Zones were good for that sort of thing. May not be perfect for the area, but I'd really like to see a Hofbrauhaus. I've only ever been to the original in Munich. I think there are a few in the US - Vegas, *hittsburgh. Would be a decent draw for locals and visitors.

whatever takes over the space is going to need to be something that appeals to mixed ages- that's why the bar idea is a bad one.

If you take a look at the people that the inner harbor attracts, you're going to realize that it's mostly families and groups of differing ages. That's is why the aquarium is a good fit. Whatever goes there will need to appeal to this demographic in order to be successful.

@Mary- I used to work at the Bubba Gump's on the Navy Pier in Chicago. They catered to families by serving a bunch of fried food and selling a bunch of t-shirts. Unfortunately, it would work there. I like the idea of a German beerhouse, but I keep thinking House of Blues would really work there. Or what about an indoor wave pool? I see a place selling a lot of t-shirts to tourists with dumb, catchy slogans;)

Or what about an indoor wave pool? I see a place selling a lot of t-shirts to tourists with dumb, catchy slogans;)
----------

"I went swimming at the inner harbor in Baltimore and lived to tell about it".

Or, change "lived to tell about it" to "didn't get chemical burn".

I'm so opening a t-shirt business.

The Bubba Gumps in Denver is probably 1/3 the size of ESPN Zone. Not sure it could fill it out.

And why are people treating D and B differently than ESPN Zone. I get the impression they are nearly identical, thus Dave and Busters may be the most natural fit, assuming they are still looking to expand.

SUPERNADDS!!!!!

Mr. Magoriums Meathead Emporium

The Midnight Sun Social should be held their on Monday night, I guarantee the bartenders will hook us up;). We might even be able to get a free tv or two. How about it Sam?

dibs on air hockey and rock climbing wall (if it's still there)

What happened to the Bubba Gump that was down there on a barge?

Best local for the space?
Let it sit empty for about seven or eight years . . . and then . . . bring back Connellys(sp?). They got forced out from the next pier over after being there for 60 or seventy years so that failed aquatic place could be sh*t upon the landscape.

Can I say 'sh*t'?

Editor's note: No, you can't say that word. What, did you think you would get away with it just because it's the past tense of a curse word?

Two words: laser tag

OH SNIGGITY OH SNAPS

I second laser tag. Photon!! And Paintball, now we're talking!

One word ... Hamsterdam.

Editor's note: No, you can't say that word. What, did you think you would get away with it just because it's the past tense of a curse word?

Yes, I did.

"So ESPNzone is going out of business and the managers just got an email saying they have to smash,break and document the 127 flat screen TVs they have. What kind of bullsh*&# is that? Have you ever heard of charity? *&$# you Disney, Minnie Mouse is a #@&%$"

quote from Facebook today. I am sure that we all could use another tv or two. Isn't smashing tv's bad for the environment? At least auction them off and give the money to the needy.

How about a Lake Trout carry out?

I've written this on other boards but I think Lucky Strike makes the most sense at the ESPN location. I think it would draw people from the city and tourists.

@ Mike: Mustang Alley is less than a minute away in Harbor East and is a similar type of venue. Knowing Baltimore, I seriously doubt the market can sustain two "high-end" bowling alleys.

ohmygawwwwd If some form of Connolly's came back I would weep the softest tears known to mankind

Sucio410,

I didn't even know we had a "high-end" bowling alley in Baltimore, guess I don't get out enough. You're probably right but it doesn't seem like a very big place and seems to cater to the local crowd whereas Lucky Strike would cater to locals and tourists alike. Anyways, someone also suggested a landmark Under Armour store might be cool as well and I kind of agree with that, could be a good opportunity for them as well.

The coolest place would probably be House of Blues. I understand that there is Rams Head and Pier VI but a House of Blues would do very well there.

Posted by: jason z | June 9, 2010 11:38 PM

Ramshead Live is essentially House of Blues in Baltimore as Live Nation places their shows at that venue.

Whatever they put there, it will probably be targeted to tourist, a commerical place, with national name recognition, with the hope it has local appeal as well.

"So ESPNzone is going out of business and the managers just got an email saying they have to smash, break and document the 127 flat screen TVs they have. What kind of bullsh*&# is that? Have you ever heard of charity? *&$# you Disney, Minnie Mouse is a #@&%$"

If this how they handle business, even closing a business, they deserve to be losing money.

the managers just got an email saying they have to smash, break and document the 127 flat screen TVs they have.

That's what the Nazi's did when they retreated from Eastern Europe.

@ Anon.. Sorry, mate; but Buffalo Wild Wings is opening in Owings Mills near the taco bell, safeway, and the on ramp to 795.
Look out world, there might be a nightlife here yet!

Me, my wife and her lawyer friend attended a birthday party at D&B. We had three tables, our table was required to pay per drink and could not run a tab. Our other friends (of a lesser hue) not only ran a hefty tab but never left a credit card nor were required to show ID. We asked for a manager who said there was none on duty and promptly threw my wife out- in their bowling shoes. I spent the next hour trying to exchange shoes. When my friend (of a lesser hue) demanded a manager the manager arrived (the guy who claimed there was no manager on duty). I will never patronize that place ever in life. Also I had a friend tossed out for wearing a jersey so he had to go to Duclaw and purchase a T-shirt to enter- when we finally got in there were more backwards hat jersey wearing frat boys in there than opening day.

I think one of them bowling spots like in the Verizon Center might be cool. Or one of the spots like in Hollywod where there's a kiosk at every bar stool where you can order drinks your way, food your way, play poker and trivia against everyone in the bar, swipe your card or enter your cash and leave.

Open a Gordon Biersch- great brewery/restaurant!
http://www.gordonbiersch.com/

Anon -

No, it's not.

Bring back the hometown stand-alone brewpub that was over between the Shot Tower and Little Italy. They had a good crabcake and a good hefeweizen (sp?).

@tif - what place in hollywood has kiosks at the bar? Are you talking about lucky strikes bowling lanes? Just wondering.

@tif - what place in hollywood has kiosks at the bar? Are you talking about lucky strikes bowling lanes? Just wondering.

@tif - what place in hollywood has kiosks at the bar? Are you talking about lucky strikes bowling lanes? Just wondering.

sorry bout the X posts.

@wondering I responded- no clue where my response went

@wondering -- Yeah, it's Lucky Strikes in the Verizon Center. I've never been bowling there, but that arena complex has everything -- a mall, a movie theater, bowling alley, CHIPOTLE, etc. It also anchored the revitalization of the neighborhood, which is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was 10-15 years ago.

Sam what happened to my post answering his questions about the kiosk place in Hollywood. It wasn't Lucky strike it was next to the viewing pier for the Hollywood sign in the mall behind the Chinese theatre

I have no idea, Tif. I believe the comments are set to auto-publish, but this software it could have gotten lost in space. I only check in from time to time, I don't handle the day-to-day operations.

It was there for a while then it wasn't. Kinda like the Raven's offense.

Heh, that last game was a soul crusher. What a good game though.

By the way, since leaving the beat, I rarely leave the couch -- for anything.

Understandable with your promotion- but can you snatch the remote and kick Maza off the couch!

Understandable with your promotion- but can you snatch the remote and kick Maza off the couch!

Haha Tif are you going to the Mobbie Awards tonight? I'll be there. It's the social event of the season, ya know.

not on my radar- is it invite only? #tifsaleem or i'll check back here after i travel the heavy seas out there

Got it- guess i have to stay down here until 7:30. I'll look for someplace dry with something wet to drink

Cool Tif, see you there

Is Bubba Gumps coming to Baltimore? If so, I win!!!

The city first authorized construction of a third barge along Pier 4 in the late 1990s, but it was never built. Cordish originally sought to build a barge for the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., but plans for that project were opposed by the National Aquarium in Baltimore and others. According to spokeswoman Jen Bloomer, the aquarium supports the current proposal

I also heard a tenant has finally been confirmed for Cosmo's spot on O'Donnell Square. Can anyone find out who/what's going on that space?

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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