Benefits of new stadium downplayed Legislative analysis says administration overstates gains

'A money loser'

Backers maintain football facility will prove successful

February 01, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Opponents of a Baltimore football stadium were handed new ammunition yesterday with the release of an analysis projecting economic benefits much lower than those projected by the Glendening administration.

The Department of Fiscal Services, which serves as the legislature's economic analyst, concluded that the $200 million stadium will create no more than 689 jobs -- well below the nearly 1,400 projected by the state's Department of Business and Economic Development.

And while the governor has estimated that the project will generate $9.3 million in state and local taxes, the legislature's analysis says the number will probably fall between $5.1 million and $7.5 million.

Opponents seized on the analysis' most conservative projections, which suggest that the stadium might not generate enough tax revenue to cover the project's $6 million annual debt service.

"This clearly shows that if you use reasonable assumptions, the stadium is a money loser," said Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat and stadium opponent.

The new analysis uses more conservative assumptions than the administration did to reach its conclusions.

For example, the new analysis projected that 80 percent of the money spent at the new stadium would have been spent elsewhere in the Maryland economy. The administration's analysis did not factor in that so-called "substitution" of business from existing enterprises.

"Aside from tickets, local fans will spend money on transportation, parking, concessions and souvenirs that otherwise may have been spent at restaurants, bars, movie theaters or other local attractions," the report said.

The legislature's report also factored in the expected departure of the Baltimore Stallions, the Canadian Football League team, something the administration did not do.

The report estimates that only 8 percent of football ticket-holders will spend the night in a Baltimore hotel before the game, compared with the 10 percent figure used by the administration.

A spokesman for the Department of Business and Economic Development defended its economic projections, and legislative leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the project yesterday.

"We stand by our numbers," said department spokesman Charles Porcari. He noted that Oriole Park has generated more economic impact than had been projected before it was built.

Even if the administration's numbers are high, Mr. Porcari added, the legislature's report still shows that the Baltimore project will, at least under one scenario, pay for its debt service and generate extra tax revenue for the state.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a stadium supporter, called the new analysis "somewhat of a surprise."

"But even with Fiscal Services' adjustment due to the substitution effect, the project is still an economically and fiscally positive project," said Mr. Taylor, a Democrat from Cumberland.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. called the vTC assumptions used by the legislative analysts "reasonable." Even so, he said, the project will have a positive economic impact on Baltimore and Maryland.

"Plus, people can not discount the value of pride," Mr. Miller added. "There's a certain pride in being a city with an NFL team."

But opponents gleefully latched onto the new analysis. At a meeting yesterday of lawmakers battling the Baltimore stadium, as well as the proposed Redskins stadium in Prince George's County, two legislators exchanged a high-five after Mr. Van Hollen summarized the new report.

The group was still reveling in the results of a poll this week that showed public opinion running strongly against the two stadiums.

"I think we know what we want to do," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Democrat from Hagerstown and stadium opponent. "We have to convince -- make that 'remind' -- the public."

Administration officials, meanwhile, met to plan how to better sell the projects to the public and the legislature.

Among the groups getting involved in the effort is the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Donald P. Hutchinson, who heads the city business group, said he has been surprised by the opposition to the Baltimore stadium since the financing already is approved under state law and the Cleveland Browns have a signed agreement with state officials.

"We were hoping that the good-faith agreement would prevail," Mr. Hutchinson said. "But there are other interests being reflected in Annapolis now, and we think we should get into the fray."

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