Expansion fans, it's time to ante up Baltimore to play luxury-ticket game

May 07, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

OK Baltimore, time to show you're serious about this football thing.

Leaders of the drive to return the NFL to Baltimore decided last night to participate in the league's voluntary premium-ticket campaign. That means the city's die-hard fans and sports-loving corporations will be asked to make deposits of $600 for a club seat and $35,000 for a sky box.

The money, which will be refunded if Baltimore does not win one of two NFL expansion franchises, represents half a season's rent on the suites. The other half of the deposit will be due six months after the franchise is awarded. Regular-season tickets are not part of the campaign.

Leases must be signed for the seats and sky boxes. At least 80 percent of the proposed 100 sky boxes and 70 percent of the proposed 7,500 club seat leases must carry terms of at least three years.

"No one seemed to have any doubt that this would be an opportunity to shine," Herbert J. Belgrad, leader of Baltimore's NFL effort, said after the meeting of the city's expansion committee.

The committee includes representatives of the Greater Baltimore Committee, Maryland Stadium Authority and the three investment groups seeking to own a team here.

Though he initially opposed the premium seat campaign, Belgrad said last night he did not feel pressured into participating and is confident Baltimore will do well.

"Despite the fact that the NFL says not participating won't be a negative, we don't want to leave any questions. You leave yourself open to innuendoes," he said.

He estimated the campaign will cost between $100,000 and $200,000. It will be paid for out of money already collected for the football bid, cash that was raised through corporate donations and the profits from last summer's exhibition game at Memorial Stadium between the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins.

The NFL announced several weeks ago that it would allow cities competing for franchises to prove they can support a team by marketing sky boxes and club seats. Two of the finalist cities, Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., supported the plan and announced immediately they would participate. St. Louis said shortly thereafter that it would do it also. Memphis said it wants to see the final rules for the sales, which are scheduled to be released today.

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