Football stadiums on the march Growing support: Money from owners, recognition of benefits help legislative effort.

March 10, 1996

LIKE A WELL-DRILLED football team, the coalition backing a football stadium for Baltimore's Camden Yards is marching steadily toward the goal line. This momentum is even pulling along a troubled companion deal -- a stadium in Landover for the Washington-area Redskins.

Yet just as in football, there's no sure win in the General Assembly. Key votes in the Senate budget panel have been encouraging. Angry rhetoric this week will flow on the Senate floor from opponents. Sentiment, though, is swinging the other way: Lawmakers are recognizing the considerable economic, social and psychological benefits of these projects.

A pivotal concession from owner Art Modell helped immensely. He is contributing $24 million to offset construction costs. That money will go into a state fund for school construction.

Additionally, the Redskins have agreed to kick in another $2.5 million and Prince George's County will pay back $12.5 million for local road improvements. The state could also receive $29 million if a lawsuit against the National Football League overturns the NFL's inequitable treatment of teams changing cities.

These moves ensure that no new taxpayer dollars will be needed to underwrite the Baltimore stadium. Lottery games and stadium income will pay the 30-year bonds and other construction costs. In return, the Baltimore region gets an economic boost from NFL games and other large gatherings. It will be another shot in the arm for downtown. The entire region will gain from this major-league sports franchise and the tens of millions it spends every year.

The Landover situation, though, remains unsettled. Prince George's county executive Wayne Curry has repeatedly changed his demands. It is time for Mr. Curry to sign a definitive agreement before legislators take punitive action that hurts his county.

The growing number of business groups backing the stadiums indicates their importance to Maryland. Even the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Board of Trade have jumped on board. It would be devastating for the legislature to reject the Baltimore stadium deal, which has been sanctioned by law since 1986.

We urge lawmakers throughout the region to consider the numerous benefits for their county from having these new stadiums and NFL teams. What makes this such a win-win situation is that no new tax dollars will be needed to make it happen.

Pub Date: 3/10/96

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