Optimism rises over stadium funding Glendening, legislators say NFL action removes any need for hesitation

February 10, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers C. Fraser Smith and Mike Preston contributed to this article.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and key legislators applauded yesterday the National Football League vote allowing the Browns football team to move to Baltimore, and said that the General Assembly can now focus on securing legislative approval for a $200 million stadium for the team.

Mr. Glendening said the vote by the NFL satisfies a 12-year craving by Maryland to return football to Baltimore to replace the Colts.

"I'm happy for Cleveland. I'm happy for the NFL," the governor told reporters yesterday at the State House. "I'm particularly happy for Maryland."

As he has for weeks, Mr. Glendening continued to predict that the legislature will approve the Browns stadium as well as the proposed Redskins stadium in Prince George's County.

'A major addition'

"It is clear to us that both of the stadiums are moving ahead very successfully," Mr. Glendening said.

"They will be a major addition to the state."

In addition to the $200 million Baltimore project, Mr. Glendening has committed spending $73 million to help Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke build his own stadium.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a supporter of the Browns stadium, said the team's settlement with the NFL and the city of Cleveland clears up any legal clouds that have hovered over the debate in Annapolis.

"Now we know absolutely, positively, that a team is coming to Baltimore in 1996," said Mr. Miller, a Prince George's Democrat. "The question now is simply dollars and cents."

The General Assembly approved legislation in 1987 to build two stadiums at Camden Yards -- one for an NFL team and one for the Orioles.

Even with that agreement fixed in law for nine years, many legislators are now balking at the prospect of spending $200

million in state funds for the Browns stadium.

'We've got a deal. It's over'

Several ranking Democratic members of the House of Delegates announced their support yesterday for a proposal to force the Browns to absorb $24 million of the cost of the project.

Browns owner Art Modell, however, rejected the idea in an interview in Chicago, site of the NFL meeting.

"We've got a deal. It's over. Finished," Mr. Modell said.

"The governor is an honorable man, and I think he will come

through on his original deal."

Some stadium opponents said the vote by the NFL did nothing to change their opinion.

Republican Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County also said that the changes in the stadiums deals proposed by House leaders don't allay his basic concerns.

"These proposals are nibbling around the edges trying to improve a bad deal," Mr. Flanagan said.

"They don't answer the fundamental objection which I have -- this is a distortion of our proper priorities."

A tone of rancor

In what may be a sign of the rancor that the stadium issue will begin to generate, stadium supporter Sen. John A. Pica Jr. startled lawmakers yesterday when he rose on the Senate floor to complain about the Browns deal, focusing particularly on the seat-license fees Browns owner Art Modell intends to sell to fans.

The Baltimore Democrat predicted that it would cost thousands of dollars to buy a season ticket at the new stadium.

"It's going to look more like the Hunt Cup than a football game," Mr. Pica said.

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