Senators plan bills to kill stadiums 17 foes hope to spark opposition to deals for Browns, Redskins

January 30, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Bucking the governor and legislative leaders, a group of 17 senators is expected today to introduce a package of legislation that would kill new stadiums for the Browns and Redskins football teams.

Sponsors said they don't expect the actual bills to pass the General Assembly, largely because they would be subject to a veto by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has put the stadiums among his main priorities during the 90-day legislative session .. that ends in April.

Instead, the sponsors said they hope the bills will generate publicity and opposition.

The four bills would shift the $273 million earmarked for the stadiums into school construction. One measure would allow the stadiums to be built only if the state fully funds necessary school-construction projects.

"We have more important needs than building stadiums for NFL owners," said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat and a leader of the stadium opponents. "We should be building schools for our kids."

Stadium opponents have been working hard to defeat the $200 million Browns stadium in downtown Baltimore and the state's $73 million share of the Redskins stadium near Landover in Prince George's County.

Opponents have already filed at least eight pieces of legislation in the House of Delegates to derail or restructure the stadium deals.

"The typical reaction from Charles County and Southern Maryland is how in the world can we build a $200 million stadium for a football franchise in Baltimore City?" said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, a Charles County Democrat.

"Are they the best bang for the buck?" Mr. Middleton said. "I would say to you and my constituents would say to you, 'Flat-out no.' "

The real showdown over the Browns stadium, and possibly the Redskins deal, will come in the state budget, which will not be voted on until late March.

A spokesman for Mr. Glendening said the governor is surprised at the depth of unhappiness with the stadium projects.

"The governor very clearly expected the news that we had finally returned an NFL team to Maryland to be warmly received," said John W. Frece, his communications director. "We have not been very good about explaining that there are economic benefits to both of these proposals."

Meanwhile, Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman John A. Moag rebutted Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who has claimed that he is entitled to have his stadium lease sweetened to bring it into "parity" with the state's negotiated arrangement with the Browns.

In a letter sent to Mr. Angelos yesterday, Mr. Moag suggested, for example, that the state is under no obligation to build a training facility for the Orioles -- as Mr. Angelos had claimed -- since the Browns, and not the state, are paying the bill for their facility.

Neither is the state required to add luxury suites to Oriole Park to match the number at the planned football stadium, he said.

"The issue is parity of lease terms, not parity of facility," Mr. Moag said.

Mr. Moag did acknowledge that the Orioles are entitled to the same 50-50 split of revenue from non-baseball events at Oriole Park that the Browns will receive at the football stadium.

The issue is likely a minor one for the Orioles, who have resisted using the stadium for non-baseball events during their April-to-October season for fear of damaging the field.

Stadium opponents have seized on Mr. Angelos' effort, saying his claims could cost the state millions of dollars.

If the Orioles cannot renogitate a lease with the stadium authority, the matter would go to an independent arbitrator.

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