Deals on stadiums reported near Modell willing to help pay, sources say

P.G., Cooke near accord

February 21, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron and C. Fraser Smith | Thomas W. Waldron and C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Jon Morgan contributed to this article.

Baltimore football team owner Art Modell has told state officials he is willing to help pay for the proposed Camden Yards football stadium, sources said yesterday -- a concession lawmakers have said is crucial for securing legislative support for the project.

But it was unclear last night whether Mr. Modell was willing to contribute the full $24 million being sought by many legislators. The team's plans were expected to be outlined at a hearing today in Annapolis.

Mr. Modell declined to discuss his intentions in detail yesterday, but he acknowledged that negotiations were under way and that he has made concessions.

"I understand their concerns," Mr. Modell said, referring to legislators who are worried about the stadium's $200 million cost to Marylanders. "I think we made some movement."

At the same time, officials of Prince George's County and the Washington Redskins, along with state officials, were close last night to reaching an agreement in which the county and football fans would pick up roughly a third of the state's $73 million share toward the team's Landover stadium.

The concession by the Baltimore team and a Redskins agreement would be a double dose of good news for stadium supporters, who have been searching anxiously for the right combination of financial modifications to win approval of both projects.

Key lawmakers have been working to cut as much as $50 million from the state's $273 million price tag for the two projects.

About 50 delegates support a bill that would require Mr. Modell's team to pay $24 million, spread out over as many as 30 years. Stadium supporters also say it is critical that Prince George's County contribute to the costs of the Redskins deal.

Without those concessions, the two construction proposals would be in considerable difficulty, legislative leaders say.

"I've had a couple of personal conversations with Mr. Modell very recently, and they're extremely positive," House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said yesterday.

The reported concession from Mr. Modell comes in the middle of an intense week of discussions among team officials, legislators and representatives of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Shortly after winning approval from National Football League owners to move his team from Cleveland to Baltimore, Mr. Modell said he would be reluctant to renegotiate the deal he had with the Maryland Stadium Authority, which calls for the state to shoulder the entire cost of the project.

But key legislators have made it clear that they need concessions from the team to secure passage in the State House.

"Certainly it would give more impetus to the legislation if the team agreed to do it," said Del. Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat who is chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee.

The Glendening administration was also hoping today to finish work on a modified financing plan for the Redskins stadium that would trim another $23 million from the state's costs.

Holding up the deal was the Redskins' reluctance to agree to a $1.25 surcharge on tickets or parking fees to help pay for infrastructure improvements on the site, sources said.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has agreed to build the $160 million stadium himself if the state pays for infrastructure and road improvements on and around the stadium site.

Prince George's County, which had been obliged to spend nothing on the stadium, has now agreed to contribute roughly $1 million a year for several years, sources said. The county would use extra money it stands to receive through a long-planned revision of the state's revenue-sharing formula governing transportation funds.

Complicating the deal, though, is the $13 million that the city of Baltimore would lose if the transportation formula is changed. State officials have pledged to find new money for the city to make up the loss, but have not made a specific proposal yet, officials said.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said this week that he was "surprised" that the transportation funding formula had been lumped into the stadium debate, but that he is confident that the city "will be made whole."

Meanwhile, stadium advocates yesterday were buoyed by a report from the legislature's Department of Fiscal Services that confirmed projections by the Glendening administration and the Redskins that the Landover project will generate more than $12.2 million a year in tax revenue for the state and county.

"This certainly justifies the state's expense," said Gerard E. Evans, a lobbyist for the Redskins.

Also yesterday, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce made its long-anticipated statement of support for the two stadiums.

Echoing the sentiments of many business leaders, chamber officials said Maryland must honor the agreement reached in October between the governor and the former Cleveland Browns.

Beyond that, chamber President Champe McCulloch said, "We believe that the stadiums deserve support on their own merits as viable economic investments by the state and deserve support as an appropriate use of public funds to augment the many cultural and civic amenities that make Maryland's quality of life second to none in the nation."

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