Schaefer doubts Raiders can hit deadline

February 04, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer Staff writers Marina Sarris, Joanna Daemmrich and John W. Frece contributed to this article.

Despite indications that the Los Angeles Raiders are considering a move to Baltimore, Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday said he is not hopeful that a commitment from any team will come in time for the return of the NFL to the city.

In some of his most pessimistic public statements on the topic, Schaefer did not say he was ending his decade-long quest to return the city to the NFL, but showed no interest in extending the Feb. 14 deadline he negotiated with lawmakers.

"I am not optimistic that in two weeks something will be finalized. I do know that two teams will move in a year," Schaefer said at a State House news conference.

Valentine's Day marks the end of a 60-day period agreed to by Schaefer and legislative opponents who want to embrace the Washington Redskins' plans to move to Laurel. Also, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, in deference to the NFL effort, told a Canadian Football League team pushing for a lease at Memorial Stadium that they would have to wait until Feb. 14 before he would sign.

"He's acknowledging that given the short amount of time, it would be tough to produce something," said the governor's press secretary, Page Boinest.

Schaefer said if no commitment is obtained for an NFL team, he would throw his support behind diverting the football stadium money to a proposed arena at Camden Yards, possibly to house the NBA Bullets and NHL Capitals.

Baltimore officials have been in contact with a number of NFL teams, including the Raiders. The Los Angeles Coliseum, where the team plays, sustained damage in the Jan. 17 earthquake. Even before that, Raiders owner Al Davis was believed to be interested in moving.

Spokesmen for the Raiders say it will be two weeks before they have engineering reports on the condition of the stadium, and that they don't anticipate making any decisions until then. Davis did not respond to requests for comment. Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad has said he has talked with the Raiders.

Yesterday, the owner of another team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Davis told him he's serious about Baltimore.

"He has no strings out there [in California]. I know they are very serious," the owner said, adding that Davis was actively considering a move to Baltimore before the earthquake.

The owner also said the Los Angeles Rams are interested in moving here, but probably will not be in a position to make a decision in time to take advantage of Baltimore's offer.

A local group of investors, represented by local attorney Robert Schulman, also has contacted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that team is not expected to be sold until owner Hugh Culverhouse, who is terminally ill, dies.

Schmoke yesterday confirmed that talks are under way with the Raiders, stressing that the communication preceded the earthquake. "I don't want to get in a situation where it would look like we are capitalizing on Los Angeles' misery," Schmoke said.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke said yesterday he has not heard of any plans for the Raiders to move to Baltimore. He declined to comment on what impact that would have on his plans to move to Laurel.

Sources familiar with Schaefer's views on the football issue say he does not want to wait so long for an NFL team that he loses control over the money set aside for the stadium. A measure passed in 1987 provides for lottery-backed bonds sufficient to build a $165 million stadium adjacent to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Legislators have already begun lining up to divert the money to other purposes. Schaefer said yesterday he would favor one plan being discussed: spreading the money around the state, with a chunk of it used to build an arena at Camden Yards.

Representatives of Abe Pollin, owner of the Bullets and Capitals and the USAir Arena where they play, have said Pollin is interested in moving out of the 20-year-old facility in Landover and would consider sites in Baltimore and elsewhere, reportedly Washington and Virginia.

"A reasonable allocation of the funds in the event the NFL does not come here ought to be accomplished. An arena in Baltimore is a good thing if they have a tenant," Schaefer said.

City lawmakers and the mayor have said they do not want to raid Prince George's County, home of USAir Arena, and believe a Baltimore arena could be supported without a pro sports team. Schaefer, however, said a team probably would be necessary.

"If the Capitals and Bullets are going to move, I think the mayor should have the opportunity to bring them to Baltimore," Schaefer said.

He said he would oppose public money being used to build an arena adjacent to the proposed Laurel stadium, however. Cooke has suggested such a multisport complex.

State Sen. John Pica, the Democratic chairman of the city delegation, said he would introduce legislation today that would allow the football money to be used for either a stadium or arena at Camden Yards.

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