Orioles pitch in, buy football sky box

August 23, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

On a day when NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue visited Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the sale of club seats for a football stadium in Baltimore remained brisk, a shining example of baseball-football cooperation came to light.

The Orioles have bought a private suite in the stadium that will be built if the city is awarded an NFL expansion franchise. The sky-box suite will accommodate 16 people and is "well-located," said Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, but he would not disclose the price. The 100 private suites are sold out.

"The Orioles have been cooperative from Day One," Belgrad said. "I don't know of another city in which one major franchise has bought a box for another major sport. Rather than being a competitor, the Orioles regard it as a partnership, since they will share the same complex."

Tagliabue's appearance with his family, including a 92-year-old aunt who lives in Virginia and is a baseball fan, was purely social, Belgrad said. The visit was arranged before Tagliabue

knew the Orioles planned to stage "NFL Weekend" to help the city sell its remaining 550 club seats.

"The commissioner wanted it to be a private visit and we respected that," Belgrad said. "It had nothing to do with expansion.

"We talked baseball and design of parks. He got a tour of the stadium by [Orioles officials] Larry Lucchino and Janet Marie Smith. He sat for a while in the stands as well as the sky box, to get a feel for the viewing from both places."

Although Belgrad had no figures, workers manning the two "Give Baltimore the Ball" tables during the Orioles' series with the TexasRangers estimated that about 250 club seats were sold over the weekend, leaving about 300

"We'll be sold out by Tuesday," predicted worker Scott Westcoat. "Then we'll start a waiting list."

The 7,500 club seats and 100 sky boxes went on sale July 1. The campaign, designed by the league to gauge corporate and community support, ends Sept. 3. The NFL expects to award two expansion teams for the 1995 season in October.

"One stand sold 40 to 50 club seats in two or three innings Saturday night," Belgrad said. "That's pretty amazing when you consider people are here to watch baseball."

Bob Wheeler, a self-proclaimed "professional volunteer" who manned one table and also works with the Oriole Advocates, said the past 10 days have been the "toughest sell" for the club seats.

"During the first part of the campaign, club seats went fast because of all the people who could spend that kind of money without thinking twice about it," Wheeler said. "That's when the six-pack idea came in -- a group of six individuals or small companies buying as a group to defray the cost."

Wheeler opted for a modification of the six-pack plan, going in with two other businessmen on two $1,000 club seats.

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