Several local and out-of-town investors made preliminary inquiries yesterday into the possibility of owning a National Football League expansion team in Baltimore.
Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he received the calls in the wake of the decision by New York businessman Robert Tisch to buy 50 percent of the New York Giants and take himself out of the Baltimore expansion picture.
Belgrad said the calls were exploratory and he doesn't know if any of the investors will join the field of what he calls "three strong, credible groups" that are in the race.
They are the groups led by Baltimore Blast owner Ed Hale, Maryland land developer Nathan Landow and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.
Landow, chairman of the state Democratic party, said he plans to meet today with his other investors, Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan, the former head of the Urban League, and Maryland businessman Herbert Haft to update their efforts now that Tisch is out of the race.
Landow, who had Tisch as a part of his group two years ago before they went their separate ways, said, "Our effort was never diminished in any way by Bob Tisch's entrance. He was very credible competition, and competition like that is healthy for the city."
Landow, who called Belgrad yesterday to let him know his group is still interested, said he wouldn't be surprised if other groups surface now that Tisch is out of the picture.
Although Baltimore never officially aligned itself with Tisch, he was considered a good bet to get the Baltimore team if the city was awarded one. He is a longtime friend of former commissioner Pete Rozelle, and his brother, Laurence, runs CBS-TV.
Landow said the key is to have the "financial wherewithal" to be able to afford the team, which is expected to cost more than $100 million. He said his group will have no problem in that regard.
Landow also noted that Jordan serves on the board of 10 leading companies and is "one of the leading black leaders in the country."
The Hale and Starr groups are working to add more local members. Hale said his group includes bakery executive John Paterakis, and the seven-member Starr group includes two Baltimore members, advertising executive Phyllis Brotman and former Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas. Lumber executive Lou Grasmick is expected to sign on soon.
Landow considers himself and Haft as locals because their headquarters are in Maryland.
Belgrad also said Baltimore will get a chance to do some low-key lobbying at the Ed Block Courage Award dinner March 12.
Pittsburgh Steelers president Dan Rooney, who in the 1970s led the previous expansion committee and is a member of the current and expansion and realignment committee, is honorary chairman of the dinner. A grant will be presented in honor of his father, the late Art Rooney, to open a second Courage House for abused children in Pittsburgh.
Belgrad said it's not exactly a coincidence that he and Gov. William Donald Schaefer will flank Rooney on the dais, where the subject of Baltimore's expansion effort just might come up in the conversation.