Herb Belgrad says Baltimore can send a message to the NFL's expansion-minded owners by selling out next August's exhibition game here between the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins in a hurry.
"To sell out a game doesn't say anything more than what other [expansion] cities have said," said Belgrad, the chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. "That, in and of itself, is not a remarkable feat.
"Based on the initial reaction, I'd be surprised if we don't sell out the stadium in a week."
That is Belgrad's goal for the new year. Even though the stadium authority is taking requests for tickets, none will go on sale before January. The sale of tickets will precede the reduction of the expansion field to a short list in March. Tickets are likely to be in the $25 range.
Belgrad has reached an agreement in basic terms with the Saints and Dolphins on holding the game here the final week of the exhibition season. The game is tentatively set for Friday, Aug. 28, but could be moved to Saturday for national television.
Saints president Jim Finks admitted the Saints could end up with a "modest deficit" financially by taking the game out of the Superdome, where it was originally scheduled. Yet he said he likes the idea of bringing a game to Memorial Stadium.
"The attraction for me is from a historical aspect," Finks said. "I played in that stadium in 1950 [his second year as a quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers]. We played an exhibition game against the Colts. I've gone back with the Vikings and Bears since then [as general manager of those teams]. It's a great football town."
Belgrad, reluctant initially to have a preseason game, said hosting a game could be an additional argument in Baltimore's favor. The NFL plans to expand by two teams for the 1994 season, with a decision due in October of 1992. Each of the expansion applicants will make a presentation in the league office in mid-December.
"Miami sold out two Orioles exhibition games at Robbie Stadium last spring," Belgrad said. "They used that as a measure of support for baseball in the greater Miami area. Many feel the National League committee was extremely impressed by that."
To request tickets for the game, mail a postcard with your name, address, telephone number and number of tickets needed to NFL Preseason Football Game, P.O. Box 1957, Baltimore, Md. 21203-1957.