Exhibition here shifted to Thursday by ESPN

March 19, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- If it's Thursday night, it must be time for NFL football at Memorial Stadium.

The first NFL game to be played in Baltimore since the Colts' final season in 1983 -- the sold-out exhibition game between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints -- has been shifted to Thursday, Aug. 27, so it can be televised nationally on ESPN.

The move not only will give Baltimore exposure on national television, but it also will provide $200,000 to help fund the city's lobbying effort to land an expansion team.

The two teams were guaranteed $500,000 each to play the game with a provision that it be lowered to $400,000 if there were national television revenue.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, predicted the city will make a profit of $200,000 to $400,000 on the game. The ticket receipts will bring it about $1.43 million.

"The success of this game will go far in reducing the burden on the business community," Belgrad said, referring to the cost of the NFL lobbying effort, funded totally by private money.

But Belgrad said it's even more important the game will be a national showcase for Baltimore, and he said he's invited commissioner Paul Tagliabue to attend the game.

"I want him to see firsthand how much NFL football means to Baltimore," Belgrad said. Tagliabue hasn't yet accepted the invitation.

When the game was scheduled, it was tentatively set for Friday night.

"We're excited about it," New Orleans general manager Jim Finks said of the shift for television. "We gave them that flexibility."

The loose ends were tied up yesterday, when Belgrad found out that the lighting at Memorial Stadium would be no problem for ESPN, which has had problems in the past with games at neutral sites.

The game will be televised in Baltimore only on ESPN.

Belgrad said several events are scheduled around the game.

Former Colt Joe Ehrmann already has scheduled a crab feast for 1,000 people, including many ex-Colts, the night before the game.

Belgrad said he aims to make a good impression on the NFL.

"We want them to see our fans and what kind of an event we can put on for the NFL and make a judgment based on what they see that Baltimore is the right city for an NFL franchise," Belgrad said.

"This is important for us for two reasons. One reason is we're in business to promote and market Baltimore to 28 owners, and you can't put a price tag on national TV coverage on a night when there's no other football competition. And it gives us an opportunity to put Baltimore on display nationally. That exposure is what we're all about."

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