A Columbia developer and state and Prince George's County officials have struck a deal that brings a Class AAA baseball team one step closer to Bowie.
The AAA Alliance Expansion Committee, which will decide whether a Class AAA baseball team should be located here, visited the Annapolis area yesterday. It met with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, Delegate Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, and developer Peter Kirk, also the owner of the Class AA Hagerstown Suns and Class A Frederick Keys, minor-league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles.
"It was very clear in the meeting that Prince George's put themselves way out on the front line and said, 'We will build a stadium,' " said Kirk, who is seeking a Class AAA franchise for the Annapolis-Bowie area. "That's clearly where the stadium will go, unless something totally unforeseen comes up."
The agreement dims Annapolis' chances of luring the team there.
Kirk said seven members of the expansion committee were "feeling very positive" after visiting the area yesterday. "The committee saw for themselves all the positive things they had read in reports on the area," he said. "They were very impressed."
Ryan, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said committee members were also impressed by Prince George's County's commitment to the project.
"We are very committed to bringing a team to Prince George's County," Ryan said. "Their impression was very favorable. The location is good and the commitment is there."
Kirk, who heads the Maryland Baseball Limited Partnership, and state officials had considered Bowie the front-runner for the team, because of its central location and a pledge by Glendening that the county would contribute $3 million toward the cost of building a stadium.
The stadium would be built at routes 50 and 301. Annapolis city officials, headed by alderman Dean Johnson, are interested in luring a team to a stadium in Crownsville, but the city has yet to match Prince George's bid. Annapolis officials were not included in yesterday's meeting.
Class AAA will add two, and perhaps more, teams by 1993. The Annapolis-Bowie area is on a list of nine finalists. The committee will narrow the list to four in July, and Class AAA owners will decide which areas will get franchises in September.
The National League is expanding by two teams and is expected to announce June 13 which two cities will get the franchises. If Denver and Buffalo, which have Class AAA teams, get major-league franchises, as many as four Class AAA teams may become available (two to replace Denver and Buffalo, and two to serve as Denver's and Buffalo's top farm teams).
Kirk's group would pay $6 million to buy the baseball franchise. The group also would put $1.5 million toward the cost of a new 10,000-seat stadium, which would cost an estimated $9 million.
The state has pledged $4.5 million toward the cost of a new stadium, and Prince George's County has pledge the remaining $3 million.
Orioles officials have expressed interest in having a Class AAA affiliate in the Annapolis area. If Buffalo received a National League franchise, Kirk and others speculate that the Orioles' Class AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, might switch their affiliation to Buffalo, leaving the Orioles free to affiliate with a Class AAA club closer to home. The Orioles' player-development contract with Rochester runs out in 1992.
Also under consideration with the Annapolis area is Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Ottawa; Quad Cities, Iowa; South Bend, Ind.; and Tulsa, Okla.