For what feels like the last three decades, the question of whether the Preakness Stakes could move out of Baltimore has loomed over every spring. But more than ever before, the question of whether this year's event could be the last Preakness in Baltimore seems legitimate, with a move to Laurel Park feeling inevitable.
So with that in mind, Baltimore could perhaps use some new major sporting events to fill the void. Most would be one-offs, others could happen annually. Here are the 15 major sporting events that should happen in Baltimore.
1. Big Ten Basketball Tournament
This is the first of a few events on the list that would require a new downtown arena, which is an issue that has existed for some time. In fact, I believe the civic leader in charge when the issue first began was Cecil Calvert. That being said, should a new barn ever pop up in town, the Big Ten has already brought the tournament to Washington, D.C. and appears willing to keep moving it around. Of course, if Maryland doesn't get any better, I'm not certain anyone around here will care all that much.
2. College Cup
While an outdoor sporting event in December wouldn't necessarily seem to be a perfect fit for Baltimore, college soccer's equivalent of the Final Four has been held in Chester, Pa., (just outside Philadelphia) twice in the last five years and two of the next four are slated for Cary, N.C. Warm weather doesn't appear to be a necessity. Of course, considering how weather works in Baltimore, it might somehow actually be warm here in December anyway. The regular success of programs like Maryland and UMBC would make this event a logical fit, and a venue like Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium would seem to be the correct size.
3. Gervonta Davis title fight
This one might not even require a new arena. The Baltimore native has yet to main event a major fight and hasn't fought in Baltimore since July 2013. He's hoping for his next fight to be against the Tevin Farmer/Billy Dib winner to unify the WBA super featherweight title he currently holds with the IBF belt he previously held. While Brooklyn or Las Vegas might seem to be the most logical locations for the fight, the chance for Baltimore to embrace their current champ could also be enticing.
4. Maryland-Navy College Football Game
The difficulty of pulling this off cannot be overstated. Navy's schedule already features eight American Athletic Conference games annually plus rivalry contests against Army, Air Force and Notre Dame. Maryland now plays nine Big Ten games a year. There isn't much room to add anything to the schedule. But we can still hope, right? The schools have met twice at M&T Bank Stadium since 2000, both incredible events that breathed life into the city over Labor Day weekend. Perhaps the schools could play each other every fourth or fifth year and could alternate hosting another team in Baltimore in the other years?
5. McDonald's All-American Game
The annual high school all-star event featured two Baltimore-area players this year, Mount St. Joseph center (and future Terp) Jalen Smith and Kentucky-bound John Carroll guard Immanuel Quickley. After a long stint in Chicago, the game was elsewhere again this year (Atlanta). Could you imagine how much fun it would be if the next time two locals played in this event they were on the floor of a new Baltimore arena together? That would be neat.
6. MLB All-Star Game
This July marks 25 years since the last time Charm City hosted the Mid-Summer Classic. We all know the story. The Orioles won't be hosting the event again until the ongoing MASN dispute with the Nationals is settled … despite the fact that the Nationals are hosting this year. It just kind of is what it is. But could you imagine how much fun it might be for Nats slugger Bryce Harper to take aim at the Warehouse during the Home Run Derby?
7. NBA and NHL Regular-Season Games
The Washington Wizards and Capitals both played preseason games in Baltimore in recent years, but issues with the facility and a lack of interest made the experiment short-lived. A new venue might improve the chances of getting area sports fans interested … as long as the games were actual, regular-season games. Baltimoreans aren't exactly enamored with paying real money to see preseason games … even the ones involving their own teams. And then there's the chance of actually landing an NBA or NHL team of our own, but I'm trying to stay at least in the vicinity of reality.
8. NCAA Lacrosse Final Four
There are plenty of people within the sport who think having the Final Four in Baltimore permanently would be best for the sport of lacrosse. The problem is that the folks here don't seem to agree. The Orioles don't want to give up hosting games on Memorial Day weekend. The Ravens don't seem to think the money brought in by the event is worth the fight to host the event. With that said, it's not coming back to Baltimore any time soon.
9. NCAA Tournament First Round
One of the cooler things about UMBC's historic upset win against Virginia this year is that its head coach (Ryan Odom) was actually in attendance the last time the city hosted the amazing event that is the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Odom, of course, is the son of Dave Odom, who was Wake Forest's coach when the Deacons were the No. 1 seed at the then-Baltimore Arena in 1995. The first day is pure magic, with four games throughout the day. Again, the city will need an arena to make it happen.
10. NFL Draft
With incredible success in Dallas, Philadelphia and Chicago since moving out of New York, the draft seems like the perfect event to continue moving throughout the country. Cities like Nashville, Denver, Jacksonville and Canton, Ohio, (home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) have pushed for future events. A Baltimore draft could incorporate Fort McHenry, the Inner Harbor and M&T Bank Stadium throughout a late April weekend.
11. PGA BMW Championship
After hosting the PGA Tour Champions' Senior Players Championship last year, there was a belief that Caves Valley would push to try to land the FedEx Cup playoff event, which rotates annually between the Chicago area and another city in the country. Caves Valley would probably still need to do some more work to manage the incredibly large crowds that would come to a PGA Tour event, but it shouldn't be impossible to pull off.
12. UFC Pay-Per-View
After UFC 172 pulled in a $2.3 million gate in Baltimore in 2014, I thought the city would be a sure thing to land another major event in the coming years. Alas, it still hasn't happened. The 2014 event was a unique circumstance, as it was announced when Arthur Jones, the brother of then light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, was playing for the Ravens. Since then, Arthur Jones has departed and Jon Jones' career has spiraled due to issues away from the octagon. Sadly, there is no current obvious logical option to main event a Baltimore fight in Jones' stead.
13. U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials
Unfortunately, the 2020 trials have already been announced to return to Omaha, so 2024 would be the next option for Baltimore (which would again give a little time to erect a new arena). And it's not impossible that Michael Phelps might un-retire, retire and un-retire again by then. I mean, he'll still only be 39. With Maryland native Katie Ledecky likely to still be a dominant figure at that point, and Harford County native Chase Kalisz likely to be a mainstay on the international swimming circuit, Baltimore could still be a logical choice even if Phelps stays retired (there's no chance he will though, right?)
14. World Cup
This is the one that seems most likely at the moment, as Baltimore is part of the United States' bid for the 2026 event. Of course, the North American bid -- which includes Canada and Mexico -- still has to win, which for political reasons might not be the sure thing we thought it was.
15. We could just keep the Preakness?
That would be really great.