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Royal Farms Arena

Baltimore, MD

Home of the Baltimore Blast

3.7

3.9

Royal Farms Arena (map it)
201 West Baltimore St
Baltimore, MD 21201


Baltimore Blast website

Royal Farms Arena website

Year Opened: 1962

Capacity: 14,000

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Having a Blast

Most cities idolize their biggest sports stars. Baltimore has been fortunate that their biggest sports stars are also some of the biggest stars in their respective sports. The old Baltimore Colts had arguably the best quarterback in the history of the NFL in Johnny Unitas. The Baltimore Orioles have been blessed by being associated with Frank and Brooks Robinson. And they could shockingly almost pale in comparison to the iron man of baseball, local legend Cal Ripken, Jr. The Baltimore Ravens counter by being the longtime home to a defense captained by middle linebacker and future hall of famer Ray Lewis.

The Baltimore Blast is not as well known nationally as those other Baltimore teams. Indoor soccer is much more a niche sport. But they still have their own sports legend in Stan Stamenkovic. Stan, whose real first name was Srboljub, was known in indoor soccer circles as “The Magician.” The Serbian star played for the Baltimore Blast from 1983 until 1988, at a time that indoor soccer players made big money and were true star athletes. You will still find people around the Baltimore area who talk about Stan’s amazing ability. Besides his talent and creativity (check out this clip from the 1983 MISL all star game: ) Stamenkovic resonated with fans because he was the true “everyman.” His love of pizza, beer and cigarettes often showed in his non-athletic-looking body, but it was the fact that he put on a show every night that gained him the fans' love. Unfortunately Stan died at a very young 39 in 1996 from a fall in his home country. His #10 is retired by the Blast and a banner flies in the Baltimore Arena.

The Baltimore Blast was a mainstay of the original Major Indoor Soccer League during the 1980’s up until that league's demise in 1992. Immediately a new team began in Baltimore, under the auspices of a new league, known as the Baltimore Spirit, which eventually changed their name back to the Blast in 1998. Most people consider the separate operations as one team, the Blast. Leagues come and go but the Baltimore Blast stay.

The Baltimore Arena’s history is even greater. It opened in 1962 as the Baltimore Civic Center. During its time as the Civic Center, the arena hosted legends such as The Beatles, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Led Zeppelin, as well as being the home floor of the Baltimore Bullets of the NBA until their move towards DC in 1973.

A late 1980’s remodel changed the name to the Baltimore Arena. It also spent most of the early 21st century with the corporate name First Mariner Arena. A future name change is probable.

The aged facility certainly shows its age in many areas, but I find the square design the most interesting, as well as telling. There are seats in the corner sections that face not the action, but other seats. If you sit in these sections, your neck may ache after a long event from the unnatural viewing angle. Some upper deck seats will be obstructed by railing, as well as the upper deck itself.

A replacement to the Baltimore Arena is a possibility, but one with many issues to overcome. (See this news article). The biggest obstacle is that the city-owned facility makes money in its current state of operation. Nothing motivates change, or lack of change, than money.

3.7

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    2

You will not be wowed by the food in the Baltimore Arena. But it really is not bad, either. There are a couple of general concession stands on both sides of the main concourse. They are supplemented by smaller moveable stands, as well as a pizza location on the smaller north concourse.

Prices are generally good. The best value is the chicken tenders with fries meal for $10. $4.75 for hot dogs and $7 for a brat seems to be in the normal price range for these events. This is the same with the $4.75/$5.75 soda prices. It does seem, though, that the $9 beer prices are a bit high for what you get.

The pizza location offers a 9" pizza for $8.50 ,which seems reasonable, although I did not try it out. I did try the $5 Dippin' Dots which offer good value.

Concession stands exist on the nearly-unused upper concourse, as well, but I would suspect that only on sold out events are these used.

Small candy and lollipops are for sale by the Baltimore Blast Fan Club. If you have small children, it might be a good place to give them a couple of bucks and have them go to town. Soccer-related novelties are also for sale by the fan club.

Atmosphere    4

14,000 seats is not a large arena, but not small either. A benefit of the unique design of this facility is that it tends to make it feel more intimate that it really is. Even the largest events there can feel like smaller ones. The effect of this also means that even less attended events can feel loud.

The Blast draw respectable attendance numbers, but not where they will fill up the whole arena, let alone the entire lower seating sections. It just doesn't seem to matter, as the atmosphere for a Blast game is always positive.

The Blast are still doing many of the same type of activities, as well as things such as the player introductions, in the same general manner as they did 20 to 30 years ago. And that is not a bad thing. The crowd is fired up and ready for the explosive action of indoor soccer to begin. Change is not always good. the Blast do it right.

Neighborhood    3

The Baltimore Arena is right in the heart of downtown Baltimore, with its numerous entertainment and food options close by. But the arena is a few blocks from the more touristy sections of town. And those few blocks can make a difference.

I am not saying it is unsafe, as talk like that is far overblown in the city. Just use caution and watch your surroundings.

If you do have some time before the game -- or after -- a visit to the Pratt Street Ale House is only about a block away. They have good brews and food. Try the crab pretzel for a serious Maryland food experience.

Venturing further away from the Baltimore Arena, one of my favorites is the Abbey Burger Bistro, near the Cross Street Market. The beer selection is good and they offer a dizzying array of burger choices, all that is likely to satisfy.

For slightly more upscale cuisine, a visit to the 1100-1200 blocks of North Charles Street is a must, where The Brewer's Art and Sammy's Trattoria offer good food at decent prices.

Baltimore is home to many touristy attractions, such as Harborplace, Fells Point and Fort McHenry. The American Visionary Art Museum on Key Highway is located on the way to Fort McHenry and should not be missed, although its unique collection will not be for everyone. Mr. Rain's Fun House is an excellent restaurant located in the museum, and could also serve as a pre-game meal location.

Fans    5

Blast fans are truly knowledgeable about the game of indoor soccer. This sport takes the beauty and skill of soccer and marries it with the aggressiveness of hockey and basketball in an extremely fast paced manner. The ricochets and quick bounces off of walls makes me never want to be a goalie.

The MISL uses a unique scoring system, All goals scored are worth two points, except those goals scored from beyond the 45-foot arc surrounding the goal, which will be worth three points. This can make for some lopsided scoring, such as in the blowout game I witnessed. But it also means that the game is truly never over until it's over. The Blast fans recognize this and stay engaged throughout the whole game.

Access    4

The Baltimore Arena is located in downtown Baltimore, about a block from the Baltimore Convention Center and two blocks from Camden Yards. It is close to I-95, with only a couple of turns from the arena putting you on the highway home.

Parking garages can be found in all directions from the arena. One garage is even physically attached to the arena and can offer direct access without going outside. Look for parking deals to come with some event tickets. Street parking is not a great option.

Return on Investment    4

General ticket prices begin at $19, although obstructed view tickets are sold on game day for $16. The most expensive tickets are a value at $22.

Be on the lookout for bargains through sites such as Groupon, where you may get in for as cheap as $9. Groups are also a big deal for the community focused Blast so you may want to see if a group you are associated with has any plans on attending. It may be a good idea to tag along. The night I was there it was Christian Youth Night, and a free post-game concert was part of the deal.

The Baltimore Arena is such an old facility that luxury suites were non-existent until recently. One suite is located at the top of each of the corner sections of the 200-level. They were not used for the game I attended, so I did peek in. They are very nice and at least give some groups a different kind of atmosphere for their game experience. Two may not sound like much, but this shows that the Baltimore Arena's management is trying all they can do to make this facility current and usable.

Extras    4

The Blast work with local soccer clubs, church groups and other organizations to keep the community involved. The array of summer soccer camps throughout the city and region is quite extraordinary. It makes the players part of the community and engages the fans. This engagement is seen back on game days by getting players on the field for pre-game introductions and halftime events.

Final Thoughts

If I have not been to the Baltimore Arena for awhile, I tend to go into the event thinking only about the old and sometimes dumpy parts of the arena. But I think it is striking that after every event I attend here, I always enjoy myself. Sure the building is not aesthetically pretty, is functionally strange and quirky, but you will most likely have a good time here. And if that event is a Blast game, you WILL have a good time here.

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Crowd Reviews

Best place to watch indoor soccer

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 2
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

Indoor soccer is one of those sports that if you talk to anybody who watched ESPN in the 1980's, they would remember, but now, it has seam to fallen of the face of the map sadly. The Blast do a great job of keeping the fans engaged and entertained with the sport, even if they have no clue what is going on. it used to be that in the neutral zone, the seats on the edge had no glass and now they do, making it very akward for one of the blast players as he would run up and kiss his wife after he scored. Its an easy trip up from DC, and it is still in the "good" part of Baltimore. I hope more people come to Blast games to support the MISL, even if some other franchises cant.

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Local Food & Drink

Pratt Street Ale House  (map it!)

206 W Pratt St

Baltimore, MD 21201

(410) 244-8900

http://www.prattstreetalehouse.com/

The Abbey Burger Bistro  (map it!)

1041 Marshall St

Baltimore, MD 21230

(443) 453-9698

http://www.abbeyburgerbistro.com

The Brewer's Art  (map it!)

1106 N Charles St

Baltimore, MD 21201

(410) 547-6925

http://www.thebrewersart.com

Sammy's Trattoria  (map it!)

1200 N Charles St

Baltimore, MD 21201

(410) 837-9999

http://www.sammystrattoria.com

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