Weinglass mulls dome for proposed stadium

July 31, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

A prospective Baltimore NFL football team owner is considering putting a dome on the city's proposed downtown stadium so that it could accommodate concerts, conventions and other money-making events.

The Maryland Stadium Authority has never rejected the possibility of adding a dome, but has legislative approval for funding only an open-air facility. Adding a dome would cost an additional $100 million to the projected $150 million stadium price, and the money would have to be raised privately.

But Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass raised the possibility with the authority this week, suggesting that an investment group might pay for the dome in return for a significant portion of profits from non-football events held there.

"I think it would be a worthwhile project," Weinglass said. He is exploring the possibilities, including a retractable dome, he said. "I'm trying to rationalize how to make it work," he said.

Weinglass, chairman of Joppa-based retailer Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, is the lead investor in a group trying to buy a football team for Baltimore. The city is one of four finalists competing for two teams the league plans to award this October, for play in 1995.

Florida-based investor Malcolm Glazer is also vying for a Baltimore team.

"I would have to go ahead with private funds, and then I would have the right to rent it out," Weinglass said. "But you could get the NCAA Final Four, big rodeos, Rod Stewart concerts. It could be a real event."

He said investors other than those he has assembled for the RTC football team would have to be tapped for a dome.

"We'll be broke," he said of the team's investment group, which includes moviemaker Barry Levinson, C-Mart owner E. Douglas Carton, retail executives David Bernstein and Michael Sullivan, local attorney Peter Angelos and retired Baltimore Colt Joe Washington.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the stadium authority, said studies have been performed on the feasibility of a dome, which would, among other things, make the city eligible for being host to a Super Bowl. "We've had an expression of interest, and if we're acting responsibly we have to follow up. . . . A dome opens up tremendous possibilities," Belgrad said. Nothing is likely to be done until after the city finds out if it will get a team, he said.

Funding was approved this year for an expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center. Belgrad said a St. Louis-type combined domed stadium/convention center would not have worked in Baltimore because of property restrictions. The Camden Yards site is about a mile from the convention center.

But a domed stadium could be used for the biggest conventions, he said.

The city's application to the NFL is based on an open-air stadium. Adding a dome could complicate the issue of sky boxes, which are being sold to buyers who are assuming an open-air stadium, and delay completion of the project.

Plans call for a Baltimore team to play its first year at Memorial Stadium and move to the new facility, adjacent to Camden Yards, in 1996. A domed stadium probably could not be built by then, he said. "Today we have to focus on an open-air, football-only stadium."

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