Baltimore rejoins the NFL City deserves it: Local sports fans can count on 'football frenzy' in the fall.

February 10, 1996

NOW IT IS official. Baltimore gets a chance to re-create the "madness on 33rd street" that once was the envy of fans in other National Football League cities. Starting this fall, Art Modell's NFL team will be our home team. A new generation of sports boosters will learn what it was like when the attention of a city, a region and most of a state is focused on the outcome of a football contest at Memorial Stadium.

There's no longer any reason to review the pain and agonies of the years without the Colts. The banditry of Robert Irsay is history. A new chapter in Baltimore's pro football history has begun.

Much of the credit for making this happen belongs to John A. Moag of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who not only negotiated the deal with Mr. Modell but also proved unyielding when NFL officials tried at the last minute to con Baltimore one last time. His steadfastness and his savvy legal strategy saved the day.

A key stumbling block was removed when state officials let Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke know that state aid for his football stadium in Landover would be in jeopardy if he continued to oppose a team in Baltimore. Mr. Cooke joined 24 other owners in approving Baltimore's football franchise on Friday.

Now Mr. Modell can turn his attention to developing fan support in his new city, perhaps hiring a new coach and a general manager and letting Marylanders help him decide a new name for the club. He can also turn his attention to helping the governor and legislative leaders in their efforts to stop a recalcitrant General Assembly from trying to obstruct eight-year-old plans for a football stadium at Camden Yards next to Oriole Park.

House leaders want Mr. Modell to contribute $24 million to the stadium-financing plan through a state-backed loan that he can pay off slowly from future profits. This would relieve the state of putting any new tax dollars into the project and thus deprive stadium foes of their most potent argument. Mr. Modell's willingness to accept such an arrangement could defuse the stadium time bomb in the legislature.

The loss of the Colts 12 years ago was due in large measure to the failure of state leaders to build a new football stadium for Mr. Irsay. We learned a bitter lesson and did not repeat that mistake with the Orioles. Now is the time for public officials to rally around our new team and the Camden Yards football stadium. The benefits of giving Baltimore's latest sports team a state-of-the-art facility should not be underestimated.

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