Schaefer hasn't given up despite D.C. nearing deal

June 16, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

Despite indications that the Bullets and Capitals are close to an agreement to move to Washington, D.C., Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that he would continue efforts to retain the sports franchises in Maryland -- and possibly draw them to Baltimore.

"What we are going to do is keep right on doing what we are doing," Schaefer said yesterday upon his return from a foreign trade mission.

He said the state and Prince George's County should proceed with the jointly funded, $500,000 study of the teams' needs unless a deal already has been struck to move them to Washington.

Officials in Washington say they are close to signing an agreement with team owner Abe Pollin under which the NBA Bullets and NHL Capitals would move from their current home in Landover to a new, publicly funded arena in Washington's Chinatown section.

Pollin was in Washington yesterday and had lunch with Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and met with members of the District of Columbia Council. An aide to council member Jack Evans, in whose district the sports facility would be built, said a memorandum of understanding is expected within days.

Issues related to the arena's financing have delayed settlement, but negotiators have turned away from a controversial increase in the liquor tax in favor of a special fee assessed employers in the District, the aide said.

"Things look very upbeat, very positive," said the aide. The council must approve the project before a summer recess that begins in a month.

Maryland officials, however, privately expressed skepticism that the District could complete the project, even if agreement is reached with Pollin, and held out hope the teams would stay.

"I think his heart is in Washington and in Maryland second," Schaefer said of Pollin. "I personally think he really wants to go to Washington."

The teams currently play at the USAir Arena, built by Pollin more than 20 years ago off the Capital Beltway. Before that arena's opening, the Bullets played in Baltimore. Pollin, a Philadelphia native, lives in Bethesda.

"Abe is not talking about moving to Florida. Washington is not our enemy. We should do what we can do to help Washington," Schaefer said.

Schaefer said he felt no animosity toward Kelly, whom he met with earlier this year and pledged his cooperation to try and keep the Redskins from leaving Washington.

The governor said he would meet with Pollin soon, and did not rule out the possibility of trying to lure him to Baltimore if the Washington discussions fail. Schaefer said he has not pushed BTC for a Baltimore arena in deference to the political leaders in Prince George's County, but that could change if Pollin seems dissatisfied with the response.

"I think it is evident that they [the teams] are not too happy where they are and this gives the Baltimore community -- if they want to -- a chance to make an offer," Schaefer said.

"I'm looking quite frankly for the delegation from Prince George's -- particularly Mr. Miller -- to take the leadership," Schaefer said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, has said the state is doing everything it can under its legislative mandate and is abiding by its pledges to Pollin.

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