NFL could kick off at Oriole Park

April 12, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Orioles owner Peter Angelos said yesterday he is exploring the possibility of putting an NFL team in Oriole Park in 1995 if Baltimore is able to entice an existing franchise to relocate here.

"It has been considered as a potential site for a football franchise temporarily until a new stadium would be constructed," Angelos said of the Camden Yards facility, which opened in 1992.

Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said a clause in the Orioles' lease permits a football team to play temporarily at Camden Yards if 40-year-old Memorial Stadium were unavailable.

Based on the difference in potential revenue, state-of-the-art Camden Yards would be more attractive to an NFL owner than decrepit Memorial Stadium. And it would be less complicated if Angelos had ownership involvement in both teams.

"Unless there was the same ownership group for baseball and football, it would be very difficult to use the baseball park for football," Belgrad said.

"No. 1, because we'd still have Memorial Stadium. And No. 2, because it will disrupt the operation for baseball to some extent."

Camden Yards' baseball configuration would have to be altered to accommodate an NFL field. Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the stadium authority, said sketches made three years ago show that the football end zone would cut into permanent seating on the outfield end of the dugout on the first-base side. The football field would run north-south, Hoffman said, with end zones along the Orioles' dugout and in front of the left-field wall.

That would necessitate putting 500 seats on a platform that could be removed for football games and reinstalled for baseball. The portable seats then would be replaced by a permanent structure once the football team moves into a stadium adjacent to Camden Yards, probably after two seasons.

Hoffman estimated the cost of the project at $1 million. He also said there have been discussions about the possibility of building a domed stadium next to Camden Yards to enhance cost-efficiency.

After Baltimore failed in a bid last fall to gain an NFL expansion team, Angelos entered the picture as a potential owner of two football franchises. He had held discussions to bring the Los Angeles Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Baltimore.

"Camden Yards is so far superior to Memorial Stadium that it's no comparison," Angelos said. "If you can do it here at Camden Yards without causing any permanent change in the facility, then this is where it should be done.

"And I believe it can be done that way," Angelos said. "We are reviewing the plan."

Although Camden Yards would hold fewer fans (capacity of nearly 48,000) than Memorial Stadium (65,000), it has the substantial benefit of 75 sky boxes and almost 5,000 club seats. Memorial Stadium, Belgrad said, has 12 sky boxes and could convert seats on the mezzanine level to higher-priced club seats.

"There would have to be projections as to what income could be generated on each field," Belgrad said.

Baltimore's Canadian Football League expansion team, the CFL Colts, has a five-year lease to play at Memorial Stadium, but could not block an NFL team from playing there. Colts owner Jim Speros, attempting to renovate the stadium with a $500,000 loan from the city, has been unable to gain state revenue from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The possibility of using Camden Yards seemingly accounts, at least in part, for Schaefer's lack of interest in supplying state money for renovations.

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