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At TU Arena Meeting, Questions Answered

With residents' concerns largely allayed, calm, hour-long meeting focuses on construction noise, arena use.

If you live in Rodgers Forge, you might soon hear the roar and hum of construction equipment coming from . But chances are, you might not, most of the time.

University officials cleared a final hurdle en route to the construction of a long-planned arena, as they reviewed details and took questions and input from community members ahead of its May groundbreaking. The lightly attended forum was held Tuesday night in the Minnegan Room at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The 5,000-seat, $68 million venue, tentatively called Tiger Arena, will serve as the new home for Towson's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics, with the current Towson Center remaining as a practice facility. The new facility, paid for largely with state revenue bonds, is expected to open in spring 2013.

In a 2009 memorandum with the Rodgers Forge Community Association, the university agreed to limit construction to  7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.

Officials went further Tuesday, telling residents they can expect to hear construction noise generally between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., except, for example, weekend utility work that might require Auburn Drive to be blocked. Hours may occasionally be extended to 5 p.m. under the university's contract with its construction firm.

"Number one, we don't like to pay for overtime," said David Mayhew, Towson's director of architecture and engineering. "We see no reason for them to work extra hours unless they have to."

Officials also took questions on building height, noise produced by heating and cooling systems and the types of performers that may play there. In the past, Towson Center Arena has hosted hip-hop and rock concerts.

The project has evolved over the years from a renovation to the Towson Center to a new arena on the current one's south side.

After Rodgers Forge residents cried foul, the university swallowed millions of dollars in extra construction costs to relocate the new arena to the north of Towson Center, on Auburn Drive across from the press box entrance to Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Only a handful of residents attended Tuesday's meeting, mandated by the memo of understanding with Rodgers Forge residents, and calm prevailed, in sharp contrast to previous gatherings marked by vocal opponents criticizing the project.

Most of their concerns seemed to have been allayed.

"I think the hard work on this was done two years ago," County Councilman David Marks said.

Slips and pencils were left on seats for those who had questions after Tuesday's meeting, but most of the slips were left behind.

Marks noted there had been a lot of "justified hostility" toward the university's original arena plans in 2009, and appreciates the steps TU has taken to get feedback.

So, too, does Pat Foretich. The Rodgers Forge man had raised issues with the university ahead of the meeting, but seemed more muted Tuesday, adding he likes the limited construction hours.

At the same time, the Stanmore Road resident accepts that some aspects of living near Towson's athletic buildings, like basketball traffic and the sound of the marching band during football games, are the "nature of the beast."

"I think the relationship we had with them in 2009, compared to now, is day and night," he said.

But Virginia Allen, also a Rodgers Forge resident, said she was concerned the university was moving faster than planned, pointing to the construction vehicles currently parked along Auburn Drive. Though work on the facility hasn't officially begun, utility relocation and other preparations began last year, well ahead of the spring groundbreaking.

"If they break the promise on one thing, how many others are they going to break their promise on?" Allen said.

Jen Przydzial February 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM
I don't see why TU needs to build a new stadium for a volleyball team that only won 50 percent of their matches last year and a men's basketball team that currently has a record of 4-22. How about investing the money in something all students could benefit from - say like renovating the run down library?
Eric February 17, 2011 at 01:17 AM
The library looks brand new compared to the towson center, which also houses classes. This new arena will help make sports better because it can be used to bring in better recruits for these teams.
Jen Przydzial February 17, 2011 at 03:45 AM
Brand new? Maybe you have only been on the main floor of the library, where yes, there is new furniture. However, the four other floors lack decent furniture, reliable computers, printers and copiers. The library looked dingy and old when I started TU in 1996. It still looked like that when I used it up until last year when I completed my Masters.

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