Legislators urge action on Rams' interest

December 25, 1993|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Staff Writer

The state's 60-day window for pursuing an NFL team for Baltimore closes on Valentine's Day. The Los Angeles Rams say they're looking for a sweetheart deal.

"Interest like this is precisely why the legislature created this window of opportunity for the stadium authority," Del. Timothy F. Maloney, an influential member of the Maryland House Appropriations Committee, said yesterday.

State House leaders and the Schaefer administration agreed Dec. 14 to establish a 60-day period for Baltimore to try to land an NFL franchise. The agreement left open the possibility of finding a team for Baltimore while the state studies the impact of a possible stadium in Laurel for the Washington Redskins.

Georgia Frontiere, owner of the Rams, has told the Los Angeles Times that she's considering moving her team, possibly to Baltimore. She said that she has no interest in selling the Rams, but that she is exploring the option of finding a better deal elsewhere.

"If you were offered something that was so good for you and your family or your business, you'd have to look at it . . . " she told the Times. "It's just a fact of life. People do look at other possibilities."

Maloney, a Prince George's County Democrat, said that the Maryland Stadium Authority aggressively should pursue the opening.

It was not clear yesterday how serious Frontiere is about Baltimore. Page Boinest, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's press secretary, said the governor has not been involved in talks with the Rams.

If Frontiere decides she definitely wants to move out of Los Angeles, Boinest said, "You can be sure the governor and the Baltimore group would be very interested in having discussions with her."

Schaefer has said repeatedly he is not interested in courting a team that is merely using the city to secure a sweeter deal at home.

John Shaw, executive vice president of the Rams, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently that the Rams are looking at St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., as well as Baltimore. Those are the three cities that lost out in last month's NFL expansion decision.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said Thursday that he had not spoken to Frontiere, but would welcome discussions with the Rams.

"If the Rams have a firm decision that they're leaving Los Angeles, we're prepared to talk with them further," he said.

"We're prepared to sit down and negotiate [in] good faith with any franchise that's firmly committed to moving, but only if we're not used for leverage."

Frontiere said she's not happy with the team's agreement with Anaheim.

"There is quite a discrepancy between what we have and what other cities provide, in my opinion," she said.

The Maryland Stadium Authority is prepared to offer an NFL team a highly lucrative lease that would make the team one of the most profitable in sports. Other teams are believed to be interested in moving to Baltimore as well.

Frontiere said the bid by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to build a stadium and move his team to Laurel won't deter her.

"Oh, Mr. Cooke doesn't frighten me as far as that is concerned," she said. "Whenever we see other, he kisses me; there's not any other owner that can say that."

Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a Baltimore County Republican candidate for governor, said that there are enough football fans in Maryland to support teams in Laurel and Baltimore.

"If Baltimore can get an NFL team," she said, "go to it."

State Sen. John A. Pica, D-Baltimore, said he likes the idea and already can hear the music.

" 'Rams' is one syllable," Mr. Pica said. "It would fit right into the Colts' fight song. . . . I'd be very excited about having the Rams in Baltimore."

A die-hard Colts fan, Pica said the city should pursue its own team regardless of what Cooke does with his Redskins.

"I just don't see Baltimore fans cheering for the Redskins," he said. "It's a question of adopting a child we could love. Baltimore could love the Rams."

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