Stadium official resigns

December 28, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer Staff writer Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

In the latest indication that Abe Pollin intends to lobby Maryland officials for a state-financed arena for his pro hockey and basketball franchises, a charter member of the Maryland Stadium Authority has resigned from his post, citing potential problems raised by his law firm's representation of Mr. Pollin.

John P. McDonough, a partner in an Upper Marlboro law practice headed by Peter O'Malley, Mr. Pollin's longtime attorney and adviser, said he notified stadium authority members of his decision last week.

Mr. McDonough, who joined the Stadium Authority in 1986, said he had not been directly involved in the law firm's work for Mr. Pollin. But, he added, "I saw the potential for conflict of interest down the road, and I wanted to avoid it."

Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad said Mr. McDonough's decision was "a personal judgment" and not prompted by him.

"I am not aware [of] any conflict or an appearance of conflict. That has never been the case with John," said Mr. Belgrad, who called Mr. McDonough "a committed member of the authority who has contributed significantly."

Changes at the Stadium Authority come as Mr. Pollin is taking other steps that appear aimed at exploring the possibility of moving his National Basketball Association Washington Bullets and National Hockey League Capitals from USAir Arena, their home for 20 years. Mr. Pollin owns the 18,756-seat building in Landover, which lacks the amenities of newer sports facilities and isn't easily accessible through public transportation.

Mr. Pollin has retained Legg Mason Inc., the Baltimore-based investment company, to investigate potential arena sites in, among other places, Baltimore, Laurel and Washington, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, Legg Mason chairman, confirmed yesterday that his company has been hired by Mr. Pollin but cautioned against reading too much into the move. "It's so surface, it's silly," said Mr. Mason, who declined to elaborate. He referred further questions to USAir Arena officials.

USAir Arena president Jerry Sachs declined to speak about Legg Mason yesterday. He also would not comment on a report that Mr. O'Malley has opened discussions with Mark L. Wasserman, the state secretary of economic and employment development, about possible sources of public financing for an arena.

Through the years, Mr. Pollin has made his influence felt on a number of sports issues in Maryland. He was particularly active in shaping legislation that created the stadium authority, the state agency that oversees the Camden Yards baseball park and would supervise construction of a football stadium at the downtown site if a National Football League franchise came to Baltimore.

At Mr. Pollin's urging, Stadium Authority legislation passed in 1987 included a provision that prohibits NBA games from being played at Camden Yards. At the time, the Bullets owner feared the competition that might be created by a state-of-the-art stadium, particularly one that also could hold arena events.

But with Camden Yards among the locations he is said to be considering, Mr. Pollin's position apparently has changed.

The NBA prohibition is one of several obstacles that could block the construction of a Camden Yards arena. Another sticking point is the stadium authority's ongoing pursuit of an NFL team, which now focuses on attracting an existing franchise to Baltimore.

If a football team relocated to Baltimore, construction of a downtown stadium next to Oriole Park would be allowed under the Stadium Authority law. That would appear to leave the state without land or funding for an arena for Mr. Pollin's teams.

An innovative and expensive option for the state might be to build a domed football stadium that could be adapted for basketball and hockey. The Stadium Authority briefly explored such a project several years ago, stopping when officials learned the price could hit $240 million.

Meanwhile, there was no news yesterday on when Gov. William Donald Schaefer would meet with Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke.

Mr. Cooke's plan to build a stadium in Laurel is opposed by 44 percent of Marylanders, according to a poll published in Sunday editions of the Post. The newspaper, which surveyed 1,002 adult state residents, found 29 percent approved of the move and 27 percent were undecided.

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