The end for Baltimore’s ESPN Zone

The closing of Baltimore’s ESPN Zone on Wednesday will not only leave 150 people unemployed, it will leave a huge hole in a premier, 170,000-square-foot downtown development in a still-recovering economy.

Owner Walt Disney Co. announced the shuttering of its five, standalone sports-themed restaurants on Wednesday. Roughly 1,000 employees nationwide at ESPN Zones in Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas will be affected, according to Leigh Friedman, ESPN Zone’s regional marketing manager in Baltimore.

The Zone is a major tenant in the Inner Harbor’s Power Plant building, which was developed and reopened in 1997 by Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos. The restaurant was a founding tenant of the building, which had been closed for the 10 years prior, and in 1998, it was the first ESPN Zone to open in the country.

Zed Smith, a vice president of Cordish Co., said in a statement the Zone’s location makes it attractive to potential tenants.

“We will replace the ESPN Zone with an equally spectacular venue,” Smith said.

Soccer means business and retailers, bars hope to cash in

When suddenly everybody wants a U.S. soccer jersey and bars and pubs are opening their doors at 7 a.m., it usually means one thing — it’s FIFA World Cup time.

Once every four years one of the most popular youth sports in the country gets a one-month stint as the country’s most watched pro sport and businesses in the soccer world enjoy the roughly 25 percent boost in business that comes with it.

“Every four years we have an extended Christmas,” Stephen G. Humburg, general manager of Soccer American, said of the tournament which starts Friday in South Africa. “It’s not just World Cup merchandise — everything that is offered goes up.”

Sports Legends Museum sales up

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Thanks to a little help from its friends, Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards posted a nearly 30 percent increase in its combined store sales and admissions revenue in 2009.
The museum, home of the Ravens and Orioles team store, increased its store and admissions revenue by more than $200,000 to $920,000 for the 2009 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
It’s the biggest year-over-year increase for the Baltimore sports history and memorabilia museum since it opened in 2005.
Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation Inc., which operates the museum, said most of the revenue boost came from increased store sales in 2009, while the attendance total inched up about 1.5 percent.

A big goal for Towson retailer Lax World

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

After opening seven stores over 20 years, Towson-based retailer Lax World is in the middle of an aggressive, three-store expansion to capitalize on the growing popularity of lacrosse while there are still deals to be had in the depressed commercial real estate market.

Lax World, which specializes in lacrosse equipment, clothing and accessories, opened a store in York Galleria Mall in York, Pa., in October and three weeks ago opened a store in the new Maple Lawn development in Howard County. The company is now scouting out a location in Bethesda, and executives say they hope to open a store there within a few months in time for the 2010 season.

Two of Lax World’s stores have also gotten bigger this year — its flagship store in The Shops at Kenilworth expanded into the open space next door in the mall, while its Bel Air location moved to the Harford Mall in a space 50 percent larger than its former South Main Street location.

Jerry Scott, the company’s director of operations, would not specify what kind of leasing deals Lax World was able to get but said they were “just too good to pass up.”

Buzz over O's prospect Wieters has entrepreneurs hopeful

Daily Record Business Writer
May 28, 2009 8:21 PM

It’s Matt Wieters time, Hon.

Friday night’s anticipated debut of baseball’s top prospect in a Baltimore Orioles jersey has elicited a frenzy of chatter and excitement among fans and media — and it’s a buzz the team and quick-thinking entrepreneurs are hoping to cash in on.

Ian Oland, left, and Daniel Moroz, co-founders of, a blog dedicated to Baltimore Orioles newest catcher Matt Wieters.“Clearly for someone who’s yet to have an at-bat in the major leagues, the hype is enormous,” said Orioles spokesman Greg Bader.

One Web site,, run by Daniel Moroz and Ian Oland, has been averaging 3,500 hits a day and 1,400 unique visitors since the Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail announced Wieters’ call-up during the Tuesday night game’s broadcast.

“It’s been really, really nuts,” said Oland, 24, a graphic designer in Columbia and author of the I Never Stop Designing blog. “I think the better he plays the better our traffic is going to be.”

Colts history on block again with Club 4100 auction

Daily Record Business Writer
May 26, 2009 8:07 PM

On Friday, the future of an aging Baltimore sports institution gets left up to fate — or, more accurately, the highest bidder.

Owners Meenawatie (left) and Rajcoomar Harkie with just some of the memorabilia at Club 4100 in Brooklyn. The old Colts hangout will be sold at auction Friday.Club 4100 dates to 1958 when its original owner George Coutros, Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas’ godfather, opened a bar underneath a house he bought in Brooklyn. Up until the Colts left Baltimore in 1984, the club served as a pre- and post-game hangout for fans and players, and the establishment’s walls are littered with photographs and signed memorabilia to prove it.

Its current owners, Rajcoomar and Meenawatie Harkie, who bought it in November 2007 for $950,000 from Manny and Dino Spanomanolis, don’t want to sell to just anybody. But that’s what they’ll face this Friday at the landmark’s auction.

“If they can treasure it and continue the club the way it’s been here for the last 50 to 60 years, that’s what I would hope for the new owners,” said Rajcoomar Harkie. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”