State expands football lobbying team Stadium Authority hires consultants, begins studies

November 06, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

The Maryland Stadium Authority has quietly hired several consultants to help land a National Football League franchise for Baltimore. Authority officials decline to say how much state money they have spent on the consulting effort so far.

If the city gets an expansion team, possibly for 1993, construction will begin on a second stadium on the 85-acre tract at Camden Yards. The football stadium is expected to cost at least $114 million, but the price could double if it is capped by a dome, according to authority estimates.

Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad and other authority officials have been tight-lipped about the plans to attract a franchise. Memphis, Charlotte, St. Louis, Oakland and Jacksonville are the other cities seeking teams. Belgrad cited fierce competition as the reason why authority officials have been reluctant to talk about their strategy.

But Belgrad said the authority has:

* Hired Walter Gutowski, 32, the former public relations chief for the Baltimore Colts, to serve as "expansion public relations official" and a liaison between the authority and consultants, for $51,000 annually.

* Directed Gene McHale, former general manager of the New York Yankees and his consulting group American Sports Associates, to study the Baltimore area and gather information on the expansion proposals of the other interested cities. The state is paying McHale $125 per hour.

* Instructed Public Financial Management, Inc., financial consultants from Philadelphia, to study whether a domed football stadium is feasible for the site. PFM is receiving $135 an hour.

* Asked Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum, architects for the new baseball stadium, to do a cost study of a domed stadium and an open-air football stadium. The authority is still negotiating the study's price with the Kansas City firm.

There is no cap on the consulting contracts, said Ed Cline, a stadium authority official. Cline and Belgrad said they did not know the amount paid to the consultants so far.

The money to pay the consultants comes out of the authority's general administration budget, Cline said.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who heads a league realignment and expansion committee, has announced his interest in adding two new teams in 1993. The last cities to get NFL teams were Seattle and Tampa in 1976.

Another committee is expected to be formed by March 1991, and the NFL owners are expected to take a vote on the expansion cities by next October. It is by no means certain, however, that an expansion will be granted.

Belgrad said the Greater Baltimore Committee is helping the stadium authority with its preliminary efforts to woo the NFL to Maryland and is contributing money to the effort.

The GBC is investigating the economic impact the return of professional football would have on the area. It also is weighing the influence that the sizable Baltimore-Washington television market might have in attracting a franchise, Belgrad said. GBC, a private business group, is also paying for an economic development video on the city.

Representatives of the authority and GBC plan to attend the winter NFL owners meeting in Hawaii, show the video in a hotel suite and offer crab cakes flown across the continent by a Baltimore caterer.

"We are doing all this so we will be able to justify to the governor and the General Assembly any expenses of a football stadium," Belgrad said of the consulting work. "It is all ground work that is going on and is within the scope of our legislative jurisdiction."

Belgrad said he decided to hire Gutowski on Sept. 24 after realizing that the consulting work was overlapping and there was a potential to waste money. Gutowski came aboard the authority staff during the current state hiring freeze, but he is a contract employee, not a pensioned employee, and therefore not subject to the freeze conditions, Belgrad said.

"Our approach is to do things as quietly as we can," Belgrad

said. "To the extent that we begin to [show] substantial efforts, it would alert the other cities more than we'd like. . . . We're not trying to emphasize our efforts."

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