City's expansion team makes last road trip Baltimore confident as decision nears

October 25, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Representatives of Baltimore's NFL expansion bid were scheduled to arrive in Chicago today in preparation for the final push to land a franchise.

A delegation led by Gov. William Donald Schaefer was to fly to Chicago aboard Crown Central Petroleum's private jet. Henry Rosenberg, chairman of Baltimore-based Crown Central, is a member of Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass' proposed NFL ownership group.

Schaefer expressed confidence last week about the effort.

"Everything they've asked us to do, we've done. We've got the money in place. They asked us to sell season tickets, and we sold them out," Schaefer said.

NFL team owners are scheduled to vote tomorrow to award a pair of expansion teams. Baltimore is among five finalists, also including St. Louis, Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Charlotte, N.C.

In preparation for their two-minute drill -- actually a 15-minute presentation tomorrow before team owners -- the Baltimore delegation will have an opportunity to practice in the same room in which the owners will see the presentations and vote for the winners.

The presentation will be a shorter version of last month's before committees of team owners, also at a meeting in Chicago, according to Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority and a coordinator of the city's NFL effort.

Belgrad will introduce the delegation. Mathias J. DeVito, chairman of the Rouse Co., a Columbia-based developer familiar to many of the team owners by virtue of its high-profile projects in many of their cities, then will make a pitch on behalf of the city's business community.

He is expected to stress the economic strength of the city's bid and the success of last summer's test marketing of premium seats. He also may touch upon a subject that the group wished it had stressed more last month: the cultural and economic distinctions between Baltimore and Washington, a city whose NFL team some owners think already serves Baltimore fans.

An eight-minute film then will be shown. It depicts Baltimore's urban renaissance and uses shots of sold-out Camden Yards to demonstrate the fanaticism of the city that, in an earlier era, helped establish sellouts in professional football.

Stadium authority executive director Bruce Hoffman, who oversaw the design and construction of acclaimed Oriole Park, will explain the football stadium plans and how the stadium would be financed (a combination of lottery-backed bonds, city aid and stadium revenue).

The publicly funded stadium is one of Baltimore's strongest selling points. Hoffman will explain the lucrative lease terms, which are designed to ensure not only high profits for the home team, but also rich gate splits for visiting teams.

Schaefer -- whose appearance a month ago was treated by city boosters as a secret weapon -- then will appear. Drafts of his remarks indicate that he will discuss why a team would be good for Baltimore and why Baltimore would be good for the NFL.

He's also expected to give his thoughts on the departure of the Colts in 1984. Schaefer was mayor when the team left, and, as he told the committees last month, he wants to be here when the NFL returns.

One other man in the room no doubt also will recall that day nine years ago when the Colts moved to Indianapolis: owner Robert Irsay. Schaefer called Irsay recently, and, although the governor declined to reveal the contents of their discussions, one Baltimore NFL organizer suggested it might have been a courtesy call to reduce the awkwardness each man might feel tomorrow.

Belgrad, a corporate lawyer by training, will deliver the closing remarks. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who is featured in the film, is expected to accompany the delegation into its presentation, but is not expected to have a speaking part.

Next, the city's two prospective ownership groups will have five minutes each to deliver presentations. Florida-based corporate investor Malcolm Glazer will be accompanied by his two sons, Bryan and Joel, who have been active in the bid.

Weinglass is expected to bring Michael Sullivan, president of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, the Joppa-based retailer Weinglass founded and chairs. He also has been considering bringing Barry Levinson, the Hollywood filmmaker who is a member of his investment group.

The NFL will provide each city with a hospitality suite in which it can wait its turn to make presentations and can await the final vote.

Other cities also are expected to include VIPs in their presentations. House majority leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., who has been involved in St. Louis' ownership search, is considered a likely member of that city's presentation.

Hugh McColl, the chairman of Charlotte-based NationsBank, also is a likely participant in that city's presentation, if he can work it around a board meeting the next day. If he is unable to attend, another top officer of the bank -- which is backing the city's NFL bid and bankrolling it -- is expected to attend.

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