One decision confronting the Maryland Stadium Authority if and when Baltimore gets an NFL expansion team is whether to build a domed stadium or an open-air stadium at Camden Yards.
But unless an owner is willing to become a partner in building a dome, the new football-only stadium likely would be an open-air, natural grass facility.
"Unless we had a contribution from the owner of the franchise, I don't believe we'd be in the financial position to add $40 [million] or $50 million for a domed stadium," Herb Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said yesterday.
Because of time constraints, the decision of open-air vs. dome may have to be made before the NFL names its new franchise owners.
The NFL announced yesterday that its realignment and expansion committee will recommend the league expand by two teams for the 1994 season. NFL owners are expected to ratify expansion at next Wednesday's league meetings in Minneapolis.
The league will first award franchises to two cities, and then appoint the new owners.
Belgrad said the authority probably would have to make a decision on a domed or open-air stadium within six months after the league awards a franchise "if we hope to complete a stadium by 1994."
The cost of a domed stadium, Belgrad said, would run as much as $50 million more than an open-air facility. "It comes down to dollars and cents," he said.
Current plans are for a stadium that will cost between $130 million and $150 million.
Of that amount, $114 million has been allocated by the General Assembly. The rest would come from sports lotteries. Belgrad said the authority hopes to have three such lotteries during the course of construction that would raise an additional $24 million.
Belgrad said design plans are subject to change and approval by the new owner. For now, the plan is for a 65,000-seat stadium.
"Originally we talked about 70,000 seats to qualify for [hosting] the Super Bowl," he said. "But on balance, the Super Bowl would only come so few times. And in order to have local TV, you have to have a sellout. It's more realistic to sell out a 65,000-seat stadium than a 70,000-seat stadium."
Belgrad doesn't anticipate any problems selling tickets.
"All our marketing surveys indicate that there is sufficient commitment to sell out the stadium and to support a large number of luxury suites," he said.
Unless a donation is uncovered, new football stadium will be, too