Ceremony to mark groundbreaking for Ravens stadium $200 million project is scheduled for completion in 1998

July 23, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Professional football officially returns to Baltimore today with a hand-painted gridiron on a downtown parking lot.

The makeshift football field near Oriole Park at Camden Yards will be the centerpiece of today's groundbreaking for the city's planned $200 million football stadium, which is to be home not only to the Ravens, but to the high hopes of political leaders.

"I welcome this newest addition to Baltimore's revitalization," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "The new stadium will continue the needed stimulation of Baltimore's economic growth, benefit employment and boost tourism revenues."

State Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat and football fanatic who expects to buy six personal seat licenses with his two sons, said, "It's a big day for Baltimore. This is something the city really needs and has been looking forward to since the terrible day the Colts left."

The noon ceremony, open to the public, will be attended by politicians, football players and team officials and is the symbolic kickoff of stadium construction, which began two weeks ago.

"It's more ceremonial than anything else. We're excited about the project, and it's a chance for people to see the official beginning," said Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The 68,400-seat stadium is on a tight construction schedule, with completion set for August 1998. Camden Yards, a significantly smaller stadium, was built in 28 months, four months more than state officials have allotted to the football stadium.

Construction crews will be under the gun to complete the project on time and within budget. Five of more than 100 construction contracts have been awarded, for roughly $9.1 million.

Hoffman said yesterday that the architectural design of the stadium -- which has stirred controversy from some critics who feel the proposal appears bland and unimaginative -- is "about 50 percent" finished. Once the design is made final, contracts and subsequent construction will speed up considerably, Hoffman said.

Dozens of area companies have submitted bids on the construction packages and are hoping Maryland workers will get the jobs, said George Eisner, business representative for the Carpenters District Council.

"We've been voicing our concerns to the politicians that we want this project to be different than that of the Baltimore Convention Center," Eisner said. Twenty-five to 50 percent of the construction workers on the $150 million Convention Center project were out-of-state residents, he said.

"If Marylanders are paying for this, then why don't we turn the dollars over to Maryland workers? That way the dollars are going to turn over several times in Maryland instead of leaving the state," Eisner said.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Maryland Stadium Authority officials said they are committed to bringing in local workers. Of the five contracts awarded, all went to Maryland businesses that primarily hire in-state workers, stadium officials said.

An economic-impact study estimated that when the project is completed, the stadium and the Ravens will bring an estimated 1,394 jobs to Maryland. The study, paid for by the Maryland Stadium Authority, also estimated that the team will bring in about $111 million in additional revenue in the first year.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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