Orioles find a mighty ally in fighting SHA building

March 30, 1991|By Mark Hymanand Peter Jensen

The Baltimore Orioles appear to have a new ally in their campaign to discourage the Maryland Stadium Authority from attaching an eight-story, $16.5 million office building to the south end of the B&O warehouse in Camden Yards.

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent telephoned Gov. William Donald Schaefer this week to voice concerns about the proposal, joining those who say the addition would detract from the ambience at the new baseball ballpark under construction at Camden Yards.

Rich Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, confirmed that the commissioner had called "regarding the stadium," but he declined to comment further.

Paul E. Schurick, the governor's press secretary, said the two men discussed "the progress of the stadium in general, and particularly the proposal . . . of a building to adjoin the warehouse facility."

The Stadium Authority has pushed for construction of the building to serve as headquarters for the State Highway Administration, which would occupy both the new offices as well as renovated space in the south end of the warehouse. But resistance to the plan persists, and some of it has reached the governor.

The plan calls for the Stadium Authority to sell the land for the new office building to the Maryland Economic Development Corp., which would finance construction and lease the building to the SHA. The Stadium Authority could endorse the project without the governor's blessing and send it to the Board of Public Works for approval of a financing plan. There, however, the governor's opposition could be decisive.

Discussions about the ballpark -- and lobbying efforts directed at the office building -- appear to have intensified this week as Mr. Schaefer met with high-ranking officials of the Orioles and the Stadium Authority.

The governor toured the stadium site Tuesday. Thursday, he met with Orioles President Larry Lucchino to talk about what Mr. Lucchino described only as "stadium-related matters." And yesterday morning, Mr. Schaefer discussed a range of issues, including the warehouse addition, with the Stadium Authority chairman, Herbert J. Belgrad.

Mr. Belgrad said the governor "has been informed from the beginning" about the office building "and continues to be supportive" of the plan. He added that it's not unusual for Mr. Schaefer to be approached by people with strong opinions about what should and should not be incorporated into the new ballpark.

"The governor has always had an open-door policy," Mr. Belgrad said.

"He wouldn't take phone calls if he weren't interested in other opinions. He tries to make informed decisions based on views he may hear from others."

Lawmakers in Annapolis said yesterday that they were concerned about whether this latest lobbying effort by the Orioles may cause the administration to rethink the SHA project.

Both of the General Assembly's budget committees have agreed to allow SHA to enter the lease, but "if there's going to be a different configuration, that obviously affects the decision-making process," said Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, chairman of a House subcommittee overseeing Stadium Authority financing.

"The one thing we [legislators] agree on for sure is that the state has a valuable first option on that site that ought to be preserved," Mr. Maloney said.

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