Stadium plans that can fly Seeking compromise: $25 million from Modell, tax on seat licenses floated.

February 08, 1996

SUDDENLY, MOMENTUM has shifted in the War of the Stadiums. What's missing is a legislative consensus on specific changes. But key lawmakers are moving to find common ground.

Sen. John A. Cade wants a 10 percent tax on personal seat licenses at the Baltimore football stadium. This would raise $8 million, enough to eliminate all taxpayer funds from the Baltimore project from this year's budget. An extra $16 million in lottery money would still be needed later as seed money until the stadium opens and generates revenue.

Another Republican, Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, wants to equalize the local financial burden of the Baltimore stadium and the Redskins stadium in Prince George's County. He would earmark 80 percent of admissions-tax receipts from the P.G. stadium for the state, which is putting up $73 million there. That's the same deal Baltimore now has at Camden Yards.

The Cade plan eliminates part of an unpopular feature of the Baltimore stadium -- lottery money being used for the project. The problem is that Mr. Cade's plan would impose a big tax on season-ticket purchasers, who will be paying hefty sums for their seat licenses. And it replaces only a third of the lottery money.

As for Mr. Boozer's bill, he's on the right track. Prince George's County must share in financing its stadium, just as Baltimore has done at Camden Yards. That's only fair.

Senate President Mike Miller doesn't care for these bills. He would rather pass the stadium plans in the Senate without modification. That might be possible if the governor leans hard on some senators. But in the House, there is strong sentiment for modifications.

One way is to adopt a plan similar to Mr. Boozer's so P.G. reimburses the state for a portion of the $73 million spent on the Redskins stadium. The other bill House leaders are pushing is a low-interest loan guarantee for Art Modell so he can contribute $25 million toward the Baltimore stadium, then pay it off at $1 million a year from future profits. Thus, no taxpayer dollars would be needed to build the stadium.

Legislative leaders are seeking a way to make the stadium plans palatable. It is up to the governor to work with top lawmakers in finding an acceptable approach. This is far too important an economic development issue for it to fail.

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