Baltimore gets the stall NFL names Charlotte, but delays 2nd choice

October 27, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer Staff writers Ken Murray, John Steadman, Vito Stellino and David Michael Ettlin contributed to this article.

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Baltimore's long wait for an NFL expansion franchise just got a little longer.

Owners of the 28 teams voted last night to give one of the hotly sought-after franchises to Charlotte, N.C., and to delay the naming of the other team until Nov. 30.

After daylong meetings that concluded at about 9 p.m., NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced Charlotte's victory and said the owners were unable to come to a consensus on a pick among the four other finalists: Baltimore, Jacksonville, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis.

"There was support for each of the other four communities," Mr. Tagliabue said.

He said the Nov. 30 meeting would not be adjourned until there was a selection. The four remaining finalists will not be asked to make any more presentations or alter their packages, he said.

The impact on Baltimore's chances was not immediately clear, but some in the league have expressed a desire to have a new team in the Central time zone.

There also was speculation that the delay would work to the advantage of St. Louis, a city that has struggled in recent weeks to find an ownership group after a major investor dropped out last month.

Prospective Baltimore team owner Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass was visibly dejected after the decision. "I'm not as optimistic as I was," he said. "It's like there's three seconds to go and St. Louis was tackled on the 1-yard line. Now there's no time left and there was a penalty flag so they get one more play," he said.

But Malcolm Glazer, a rival to own the team to be named the Bombers, said: "I'm not that disappointed because Baltimore's still in it."

Mr. Glazer unveiled his own financing package, one that increased to $1.5 million the amount of ticket revenue that visiting teams would take home from a game in Baltimore. The city's proposal had called for a gate split of about $1.1 million.

Mr. Glazer declined to discuss the changes, other than to say it results in the Baltimore owner getting less money.

The plan includes a reduction in the fees charged sky box renters, with an increase in the tickets the box customers must purchase. Because the tickets are shared with visiting teams, and the annual fees are not, the net result is an increase in the visitor's receipts, according to sources who've seen the plan.

Atlanta Falcons owner and expansion committee member Rankin Smith said there were no favorites among the four remaining teams. "I don't think it gives the edge to anybody," Mr. Smith said.

New York Giants owner Bob Tisch, however, acknowledged that the league has some hesitancy adding another team to the congested Northeast.

"When you look at that wide expanse in Mid-America with no team, you have to consider it," Mr. Tisch said of St. Louis.

William B. Dunavant Jr., leading the bid of Memphis, predicted geography would take Baltimore and Jacksonville out of the running.

"I think there is no question it is Memphis or St. Louis," said Mr. Dunavant, who also upped the ante by announcing his group would increase its down payment on the $140 million franchise fee from $42 million to more than $116 million.

Still, the few owners who would talk said the field was wide-open.

"They all have an equal chance," said Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. "I think the St. Louis ownership group is a strong group. Obviously it didn't get into place until the last few days so I think that could have presented some hesitation."

Part of the delay yesterday was related to an 11th-hour offer from former New England Patriots owner Francis W. Murray for a St. Louis franchise.

The head of Mr. Murray's group, Jerry Clinton, dropped out on Monday, clearing the way for a new group headed by Columbia, Mo.-based developer L. Stanley Kroenke.

But Mr. Murray, one of the founders of the St. Louis NFL Partnership, appointed himself controlling partner of the partnership in place of Mr. Clinton and fought to get a morning hearing from the owners.

The league's blessing was clearly with the Kroenke group.

Asked if his last-minute pitch could have endangered his city's bid, Mr. Murray said, "I'm not the reason St. Louis didn't get a franchise, but I might be the reason [it] is still in it."

The Baltimore delegation had spent a stressful day analyzing rumors, delivering a presentation and awaiting the verdict.

"I wish they had made a decision and gotten it over with. What's another five weeks going to do?" Gov. William Donald Schaefer said.

Mr. Schaefer led the delegation back to Baltimore early today, landing at Martin State Airport. "I'm not downbeat," he said, but later he admitted he may have had a tear in his eye when he learned of Charlotte's acceptance.

"Maybe something flew by and got in my eye," he said. "When you get a kick in the belly at someone else getting a franchise, you don't say hooray, hoorah. I was hurt, hurt real bad."

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