Charlotte revises financing design Says Baltimore plan for NFL club is better

July 01, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

The leaders of the NFL expansion effort in Charlotte, N.C., are attempting to make a comeback by restructuring their stadium financing plan.

Acknowledging that St. Louis and Baltimore are perceived to have an advantage because they have public funding to build stadiums, Charlotte officials hope to put a new financing plan in place in six to eight weeks.

"Comparing the different aspects, there are more attractive stadium plans in the eyes of the NFL in St. Louis and Baltimore than in Charlotte," said Mark Richardson, the son of former Colt Jerry Richardson, who heads the Charlotte group.

Richardson said that the plan to have partial ownership of the stadium by a third party or parties is in preliminary stages and that they haven't decided how much of the $150 million cost of the stadium will be handled by outside sources.

In the original plan, the ownership group was going to finance the entire cost of building a stadium and buying the team. That would have meant borrowing about $300 million.

When the NFL owners looked at the debt service that that plan would entail at a meeting in Pasadena, Calif., in May, they generally agreed that the St. Louis and Baltimore plans -- which include public funding for their stadiums -- were better financial deals for the league.

Richardson, though, said it wasn't until the last two or three weeks that league officials informed them that they felt St. Louis and Baltimore had more attractive plans.

That's why Max Muhleman, marketing consultant for Richardson's group, said he wrote a memo to the Charlotte City Council last week saying, "Recently, we have seen media speculation nationally to the effect that Baltimore has overtaken Charlotte as one of the two likely choices with the presumption being St. Louis is the one likely choice."

Noting that the St. Louis and Baltimore plans include more than $200 million in public funds, Muhleman wrote, "There is no doubt that these arrangements have to be counted as advantages for St. Louis and Baltimore."

In Charlotte, though, there seems to be little sentiment to match the St. Louis and Baltimore public funding plans. Charlotte has come up with $55 million to buy and prepare the site for the stadium.

Don Reid, a Charlotte councilman, responded to Muhleman's memo with a letter, saying: "I believe this letter is the opening shot to get the city and/or county to pay for the stadium. The citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg county have done their part. Let the people who will benefit directly finance this stadium and keep it off the backs of the . . . taxpayers."

Richardson and Muhleman responded quickly that the Charlotte group isn't asking for public funds.

Muhleman said corporations could gain tax and promotional advantages -- including possibly naming the stadium -- for contributions.

Charlotte's plans of getting an expansion team probably depend on whether the city can make a new plan a reality.

"We're trying to take something that's seen as a weakness and eliminate it," Richardson said.

The league's timetable is to name two teams by this fall to play in 1994, but that could be delayed if the league loses the antitrust trial under way in Minneapolis.

Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he has made it a policy not to critique the bids of other cities, but said, "I still feel that on the merits, Baltimore should rank first or second. We were the first city to get public financing guarantees to produce a state-of-the-art football stadium."

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