Baltimore NFL bid needs scrutiny, rival group says Charlotte's new plan revealed to league

September 02, 1992|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Backers of the NFL bid in Charlotte, N.C., yesterday gave the league a glimpse of their newly revised stadium financing plans and suggested privately that Baltimore's bid should receive similar scrutiny.

Charlotte is viewed as a chief rival of Baltimore's bid.

"People have said it's a problem for us. If there's something for us to address, I don't see why everyone else shouldn't," said Mark Richardson, an official with Richardson Sports, the investment group trying to bring a team to the Carolinas.

He questioned in an interview Monday how Baltimore would pay for a $130 million football stadium when the legislature has authorized only $80 million in bonds for the project.

"They still have to raise $120 million to $140 million," Richardson said. The franchise fee for a team is expected to be up to $150 million.

Baltimore officials deny any financing problems, saying the football stadium would be financed just as the baseball stadium was: a mixture of bonds and lottery and stadium revenue.

"The bottom line is we are solid . . . Charlotte has problems," said Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Richardson Sports initially planned to finance both an NFL team and stadium privately, something that has never been done. Without public funding, a team owner would almost have to divert some ticket revenues to debt financing -- reducing a visiting team's share of the gate and putting pressure on club finances.

Baltimore and St. Louis -- another city bidding for one of the two teams the NFL plans to add to the league -- both have public financing in place for their stadiums. The team owners would presumably finance or pay for the franchise fees themselves.

Earlier this year, Richardson Sports, after suggestions from the NFL, decided to scrap their initial plan and set out to revise it, exploring corporate sponsorships and other alternatives. Richardson said the plan will be made public in a few weeks after final commitments are received.

In Baltimore, plans are to build the stadium with the $80 million in bonds and $50 million in accumulated and future lottery revenues. The General Assembly has authorized up to four instant lotteries a year dedicated to stadium construction. Each game generates about $8 million, or $32 million a year.

Some revenues from the baseball team's lease could also be applied to construction, according to the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The site, adjacent to Camden Yards downtown, has already been acquired and largely prepared for construction. Site preparation for both the baseball and football stadiums cost $99 million and was funded with a separate, $85 million bond sale and lottery proceeds, according to the stadium authority.

Hoffman said the plan was reviewed with NFL officials when they were in Baltimore last week. Roger Goodell, director of development for the NFL, said after the meeting that the league understood the plan and had no questions.

Max Muhleman, a marketing consultant for Richardson Sports, said the group spent about three hours with NFL officials yesterday. The NFL delegation, which includes NFL president Neil Austrian, is visiting each of the five finalist cities in preparation for a final decision this fall.

"It went very well. They indicated that we had made a lot of progress," Muhleman said.

The financing plan was described to NFL officials, he said. He declined to provide details, other than to say that it does not involve public funding.

"We felt it was received well and they understood it," he said.

The NFL delegation was traveling last night and could not be reached.

The five finalists for an NFL team are Baltimore, St. Louis, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn.

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