Modell's 'Big Mo' Stadium support: Owner's $24 million could put Baltimore football complex on fast track.

February 23, 1996

SUDDENLY, the outlook for a Camden Yards football stadium is brighter. Owner Art Modell's announcement of a $24 million contribution toward construction, combined with support from the state's business community, has put opponents on the defensive. The stadium plan now has momentum -- what sports enthusiasts call "Big Mo."

Yet just as quickly as the Baltimore stadium has reached the fast track, a plan for the state to help build a Redskins stadium in Prince George's County has hit the skids. County executive Wayne Curry could yet kill the deal.

Mr. Modell's flexibility contrasts with Mr. Curry's unyielding stance. To satisfy legislators, the Baltimore football owner agreed to give $24 million to the Maryland Stadium Authority. And the MSA, in turn, agreed to deposit an equivalent amount -- $2.4 million a year for 10 years -- into a special fund for school construction. Education comes out a big winner.

Meanwhile, Mr. Curry refuses to make any concessions. He wants all the goodies that a stadium would give his county, but he's unwilling to pay a dime out of county tax dollars. If there is no agreement, Senate President Mike Miller's attitude toward the whole football package could be crucial. His home base is P.G.

Thanks to Mr. Modell's financial participation, the Baltimore stadium is getting a warmer reception. An added boost came from the state Chamber of Commerce's endorsement. NFL football will boost this state's appeal to corporations, it said. And the group pointed to the damage should the legislature reject the governor's agreement with Mr. Modell.

Were that to happen, the chamber warned, "any business that seeks to relocate to Maryland in the future will have second thoughts," since the legislature is so eager to re-write signed agreements and renege on laws passed years earlier. "It would be short-sighted for Maryland legislators to create a reason not to do business with our state. It is exactly the kind of 'red flag' that Maryland does not need."

Mr. Modell's substantial good-faith gesture should be recognized. It is the mark of a responsible corporate citizen. That's the kind of businessman we need in Maryland. The new Baltimore stadium would enhance this region's amenities and this state's quality of life. It deserves legislative support.

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