Stadium Strategy for Maryland

February 15, 1994

Once again, legislators meet with Gov. William Donald Schaefer today to find a unified strategy for bringing football back to Baltimore while also assisting Jack Kent Cooke in building his Redskins stadium in Laurel. Key to making this happen: breathing space so that artificial legislative deadlines don't ruin chances for one or both stadiums.

This is not the time for legislative malcontents to try to deauthorize a new stadium for Baltimore. It is inappropriate for the legislature to renege on its prior commitment to a $160 million stadium next to Oriole Park. As House Speaker Casper R. Taylor correctly pointed out, the original aim was to attract tourists and generate economic activity. This is still a valid, achievable goal.

Now that Governor Schaefer has intervened directly, discussions are heating up on three National Football League fronts: Tampa Bay and the two Los Angeles clubs. In the months ahead, any one of these teams could sign on the dotted line and move to Baltimore -- unless the legislature spoils everything.

Does Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller want to be known as the politician who cost Baltimore a pro football team? Do other lawmakers want to snuff out an economic development project of this magnitude for the state of Maryland?

Mr. Miller and Mr. Taylor have an obligation to do what is best for the entire state. Clearly, that means finding a way to mollify Mr. Cooke while giving the governor a chance to strike a deal with an existing National Football League club.

Sadly, Mr. Cooke is not making it easy. He won't discuss allowing a rival football team in Baltimore -- and for selfish reasons. He wants to monopolize both the Washington and the Baltimore football markets, sucking corporate money out of Baltimore to fill the record number of skyboxes at his stadium while he prepares to make a killing from pay-per-view football games in the Baltimore region.

What will Mr. Cooke contribute to Baltimore in return? Nothing. Not one ticket (except for those expensive skyboxes and club seats). Not a dime spent in Baltimore. He's strictly Washington (and Northern Virginia) oriented. Yet he expects the Maryland General Assembly to do his bidding.

The pretext is that funds to build the Baltimore stadium could be used for other projects in an election year, such as schools or prisons. But that's a political myth. Most of the stadium funds would come from revenue bonds -- backed by stadium-generated proceeds. No stadium, no bonds. Talk of a "stadium dividend" is a hoax.

There is more than sufficient fan and corporate support in metro Washington and metro Baltimore for two teams to co-exist and flourish. These are distinctly different markets. What a coup it would be for Maryland to gain two NFL teams. But this can come true only if the governor is given time by the legislature to make it happen.

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