IN THE END, it wasn't even close. Stronger than expected support for a Baltimore football stadium at Camden Yards made yesterday's House of Delegates vote anticlimactic. The coalition held together for a second football stadium in suburban Washington for the Redskins, too. It was a two-touchdown day in Annapolis.
While the end result was easier than expected, getting there proved an arduous struggle. At first, Gov. Parris Glendening found himself championing a cause without an army at his side. But gradually that began to change. Amendments to the stadium agreements mollified many legislators upset about a lack of General Assembly input. The willingness of Baltimore football owner Art Modell to chip in $24 million proved pivotal. And Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger did a masterful job rounding up a solid block of support in his delegation.
Both Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor worked quietly behind the scenes to ensure enough votes in their chambers, often with little help from the governor's staff. They put their prestige on the line and won. A lack of early backing from the state's business community hurt. But once business leaders realized the harm rejection of a Baltimore stadium would do to economic development prospects, they endorsed the two projects.
After the state's $14 billion budget receives final approval, the Board of Public Works will give the go-ahead for $86 million in bonds to get the Baltimore project rolling. It is a very tight construction schedule. But the Maryland Stadium Authority's executive director, Bruce Hoffman, showed with Oriole Park and then with the Convention Center expansion that he knows how to manage a complex project of this magnitude to completion by 1998.
With the conclusion of the legislative dispute over these stadiums, it is time for bitter, angry diatribes to end. Marylanders should embrace its two new football teams the Maryland Redskins and Mr. Modell's Maryland team. There is plenty of room for both clubs to succeed and prosper. And with that prosperity will come enormous benefits for both the Baltimore and Washington regions as well as for the state as a whole. Professional football is a multi-billion-dollar business. And soon Maryland will be in the very heart of the action.
Pub Date: 3/22/96