Schaefer, Kelly to confer on future of Redskins

December 21, 1993|By Sandy Banisky and Jon Morgan | Sandy Banisky and Jon Morgan,Staff Writers

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who as mayor of Baltimore witnessed the loss of the city's beloved NFL franchise, will meet tomorrow with a mayor trying to avoid a similar fate:

Washington's Sharon Pratt Kelly.

At the State House, Ms. Kelly and Mr. Schaefer will discuss their mutual efforts to keep the Redskins in Washington -- or at least out of Laurel. Mr. Schaefer fears the move would forever end his dream of football in Baltimore. Mayor Kelly has said she won't give up on plans to have Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke build his 78,000-seat stadium in the district. But Redskins officials insist they've ended all talks with the District of Columbia -- even as Washington officials say they're still working on a lease to be ready next month.

Page W. Boinest, Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, said yesterday that Governor Schaefer, who was mayor when the Colts left town nearly 10 years ago, "is very sensitive to the situation in the district. He's very concerned about the how the district is handling this."

Meanwhile, a group of Baltimore-area legislators met with Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad yesterday and offered to play a bigger role in the campaign to bring football to Camden Yards.

"We're moving ahead with the purpose of preparing for a new franchise in Baltimore," said Baltimore Democratic Sen. John A. Pica Jr. after the 2 1/2 -hour briefing. The group will have an announcement next week, he said.

"It is important for the city of Baltimore to stand firm in its belief that an NFL franchise here . . . is a benefit to the city and the `` state," said Baltimore Democratic Sen. George W. Della, who also was briefed by Mr. Belgrad.

"That's what it comes down to. We have already invested in preparation of that site. The economic development benefits to the city at that site are great."

"I'm sure there are those who think there's no possibility of Baltimore getting an NFL team," Mr. Della said. "I'm not one of those people."

Mr. Belgrad described the meeting with Baltimore lawmakers as a background briefing on the Laurel proposal and the state's efforts to get a team in Baltimore. Four teams were mentioned as candidates for a move here: the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Raiders and Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

State leaders are also discussing an independent review of the cost and benefits of the Laurel project, to be conducted under the aegis of the Anne Arundel County public works department, Mr. Belgrad said.

A committee, chaired by the county's public works director, would have representatives from the Redskins, the legislature's fiscal oversight office, and state agencies devoted to economic development and transportation, Mr. Belgrad said.

While the Redskins owner says he will pay for the $160 million stadium himself, the project would require publicly funded road and utility upgrades. The cost of those infrastructure improvements has been disputed; Mr. Cooke's experts say it would be only $36 million and Mr. Belgrad says it could top $100 million.

"To the extent that there is any question of the impartiality of the study, we want to assure that the task force that considers the traffic and economic and environmental impact is a committee that is acceptable to all parties," Mr. Belgrad said.

Today, Mr. Belgrad planned to continue his talks with lawmakers; he was to meet in Annapolis with leaders of the House of Delegates, including speaker-elect Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany.

In another development, refunds have been mailed to some of the fans who put down deposits for club seats and sky boxes as part of this summer's test-marketing campaign. The Maryland Stadium Authority asked fans to leave the money on account in case a team can be persuaded to move here, and many opted to do this, said Walt Gutowski, spokesman for the authority.

About $8.5 million in deposits was collected from more than 2,000 fans during the premium seat campaign. All 108 sky boxes and 7,500 club seats in the proposed downtown stadium were reserved.

Under rules designed by the NFL, the money was to have been refunded with interest in the cities that failed to win an expansion team. Fans who requested refunds, or who did not respond to the authority's request to leave the money on account, were sent checks on Friday, Mr. Gutowski said.

He said the authority did not know how many club seat refunds were sent. The refunds were accompanied by a letter giving the fans another chance to keep their reservation by sending the check back. Only one of the sky box renters requested a refund, said Ernie Accorsi, a special adviser to the local NFL committee who helped coordinate the sales.

"It's been overwhelming in favor of keeping the money. I've been amazed. I guess they feel they can play a part in attracting a team," Mr. Accorsi said.

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