Poll shows little support for using state funds to build an indoor sports arena

June 24, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Marylanders don't think much of the idea of using state funds to build a new basketball and hockey arena, even if it would keep the Bullets and Capitals from moving to Washington, according to a statewide poll released yesterday.

Nearly half -- 48 percent -- of the 818 registered voters surveyed last week said they oppose having the state help build an indoor sports complex in Maryland in an effort to keep the teams from moving.

Thirty percent said they favored the idea. The remaining 22 percent said they were undecided.

The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research for The Sun and other news organizations.

State and Prince George's County officials are studying the economic benefits of keeping the two professional teams in Maryland. They also are trying to determine what a new arena would cost and how it could be paid for.

The owner of the teams, Abe Pollin, is putting pressure on the state. Earlier this week he signed a tentative agreement with District of Columbia officials to move the teams from the 20-year-old USAir Arena in Landover to a new arena to be built in downtown Washington.

The poll results, broken down into eight regions of the state, showed there is little support for state funding, even in the teams' home county of Prince George's. It found 35 percent of county voters in favor of the idea, 34 percent against and the rest undecided.

Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, said those who were polled may not have thought about the jobs and tax revenue that would be lost if the teams should leave. He also noted that an arena, unlike a football stadium, can be used

almost every day and often for two events a day.

"We have to look at the final numbers, and if they tell us it is not worth any significant state involvement, I would say to supporters of the two teams: 'We can't do it.' But, if it turns out to be a significant, positive investment to the state, I would offer the leadership and say the state should be participating."

Page W. Boinest, press secretary to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, recalled polls back in 1987 that showed voters were against the idea of using state money to build a twin stadium complex in downtown Baltimore.

A Mason-Dixon poll that year concluded that if the Camden Yards stadium complex issue had been put to a vote, only 29 percent of those polled were in favor, and 49 percent were against.

"There was a very lukewarm attitude about building the baseball stadium at Camden Yards," Ms. Boinest said. "But that turned out to be a success story beyond anyone's wildest imagination."

In Mason-Dixon's latest Maryland poll, voters were almost evenly split when asked if the state should honor its commitment to help build a football stadium in Camden Yards if Baltimore should gain an NFL franchise. The poll found 44 percent in favor, 41 percent against and the rest undecided.

Del Ali, vice president of Mason-Dixon, said those numbers -- which were far more favorable than the poll results taken back in 1987 -- probably reflect the success of Oriole Park and the notion among voters that the state should live up to its previous commitments.

Predictably, support for the Baltimore football stadium was strongest in Baltimore (61 percent), and weakest in Montgomery County (24 percent). Men and Democrats tended to favor the idea, while women and Republicans tended to oppose it.

The poll, conducted June 16 through June 18, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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