Montgomery businesses endorse 2 stadiums Chamber of Commerce lends support 'carefully'

March 02, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

While Montgomery County legislators are almost uniformly opposed to the state's two proposed NFL stadiums, the county's Chamber of Commerce has come out with a pragmatic -- albeit lukewarm -- endorsement.

In a statement distributed yesterday, the chamber said it supports public funding to "assist" construction of the Baltimore and Landover stadiums.

"The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce supports the investment of public funds in projects that produce economic returns for the state," the statement said in justifying the group's position.

The group gave a stronger endorsement to the proposed Washington Redskins stadium in Prince George's County, which team owner Jack Kent Cooke will build himself with the state and county paying for infrastructure costs.

But the group said it would prefer that the Baltimore project be restructured with more private-sector investment. Gov. Parris N. Glendening's agreement with the former Cleveland Browns requires the state to pay for the new $200-million football stadium at Camden Yards.

"We've tried to add our support very carefully, without overstating our case," said Ron Resh, legislative counsel for the chamber.

The group's statement also urged legislators to consider Montgomery's "critical needs" such as school construction and a business conference center that are pending in the General Assembly.

"If we didn't have some major and critical projects on the table, I don't know if we'd be taking this position," Mr. Resh said.

The state's commitment to spend as much as $273 million on the two projects is highly unpopular with residents of Montgomery County, according to polls. The county's legislators say the money should be used for pressing needs, such as schools.

Mr. Glendening praised the chamber's stance.

"We truly appreciate their support, especially at this critical juncture in the legislative approval process, and we hope Montgomery County legislators will take note of this show of support from their own business community," Mr. Glendening said.

The stadium projects are expected to receive their first vote Monday in the Senate budget committee, with crucial votes expected on the floor of the Senate a week later.

In the last few weeks, legislative leaders have negotiated agreements to reduce the state's costs for the projects by $40 million by demanding more financial contribution from Baltimore's new team, Prince George's County and the Redskins.

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