Stadium authority asks fans to hold off on seat refunds

March 24, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

Football fans who put down deposits in last summer's drive to lease sky boxes and club seats at the proposed NFL stadium are being asked to let the money ride a little longer while the city tries to get a team.

About $6 million of the $8 million collected during the two-month, NFL-designed sales blitz remains in interest-bearing escrow accounts, and local NFL organizers want to keep it through the end of the year. The deposits, on 100 sky boxes and 7,500 club seats, were intended to demonstrate the city's football fanaticism as part of its bid for an expansion team.

When the expansion franchises were awarded to Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., fans here were asked to sign authorizations allowing the local NFL committee to keep the money until March 30 while it tried to lure an existing team to town.

Negotiations with teams slowed when some members of the General Assembly pushed to revoke the Maryland Stadium Authority's bonding authority, according to a letter now going out to depositors. That threat has now passed. "As a result, discussions between our potential ownership groups and various NFL owners have picked up momentum and are progressing well. However, we are concerned that it would convey the wrong message were we now to return the escrow funds to our fans," the letter said.

Fans are asked in the letter to sign an authorization allowing the money to be kept until Dec. 31, preserving their seating priority. Depositors can also request their money back through the form. Money will automatically be returned to people who do not respond to the letter.

Investors and state officials have been in talks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams and Raiders about moving to a proposed stadium adjacent to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"I would never think of holding the escrow funds one day longer if I didn't think this was a positive factor in our negotiations," said Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

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