Angelos vs. Moag heats up Parking plan for O's strains relationship

April 17, 1997|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

A dispute over Orioles parking has become the latest flash point in a rapidly deteriorating relationship between the Maryland Stadium Authority and its charter tenant.

Each side accuses the other of dragging its feet and inconveniencing fans whose spaces were displaced by the construction of the Ravens stadium. The rhetoric has become lively.

"It [the stadium authority] ought to get its act together," said Orioles owner Peter Angelos. "The parking problem was known months ago, and at that time I asked them to do something about it."

Angelos said the inaction was "retaliatory" for his opposition to stadium authority proposals, such as building a small hotel and retail complex between the stadiums to help pay for the stadiums and additional parking.

Authority chairman John Moag said: "That's absolutely contrary to the facts."

At a recent stadium authority meeting, Moag told the authority members that monthly meetings have been held on the parking problem and Orioles representatives have rarely shown up. He said the stadium authority is moving ahead with a number of alternatives that, by next year, will have all the parking replaced and probably give fans more spaces than ever before.

"You do all the things that make sense and what the pros tell you and they dump all over you," Moag said. "I don't know what to do other than take your shots."

In a letter to season-ticket holders displaced from their old parking spots, the Orioles said: "Despite numerous meetings and correspondence dealing with the loss of parking, the Maryland Stadium Authority has failed to address this issue."

Before Opening Day, the stadium authority held a news conference to urge use of mass transit for Orioles games, but no Orioles representative attended. The team hastily convened its own news conference later in the day to criticize the state agency.

This week, the Orioles distributed a statement saying: "It is unconscionable that the MSA has not acted more quickly in light of what Oriole Park at Camden Yards has meant to the city, state and region."

The team also said it "never will accept" parking on the site of the Hammerjacks nightclub as a long-term substitute. But the stadium authority voted Tuesday to pay $3.1 million for the property and will convert it to parking.

Both sides agree that more parking must be provided. But they are backing different options.

The team initially suggested a parking deck between the two stadiums, as was originally envisioned nine years ago. But, after commissioning a study, the team now wants a $35 million, 3,885-space garage built across Russell Street, where a Staples Superstore and several other businesses are located. The Orioles say such a deck could pay for itself and be designed to route traffic in a way that would not overwhelm Russell Street.

The team won $250,000 in the recently approved state budget to study the garage. The Orioles do not want to pay for the garage, but are willing to assign season-ticket holders parking there and to forgo any revenue from it.

The stadium authority has been cool to the idea, worried that such a garage could cost as much as $45 million, displace several businesses and clog traffic. Making it profitable or attractive to private developers could be a challenge because its location, off the beaten path from downtown, would not draw many commuters.

The Orioles are similarly unenthusiastic about the stadium authority's proposal to build an entertainment complex with a Niketown-like anchor tenant on the site. The stadium authority likes this idea because it would generate economic activity and raise money to pay for the parking and even retire some of the debt on the stadiums. Several developers have expressed interest in the idea.

It also can be done within the budget and 85-acre geographic jurisdiction established in 1987 for the stadium authority. After the bruising legislative row over Ravens stadium funding in 1996, Moag is not eager to ask the General Assembly for more stadium-related money.

But the Orioles are worried about the aesthetic impact of a new development and about displacement of parking during the project's construction.

"There has been a lot of attention paid to getting the football stadium up and running," said Joe Foss, Orioles vice chairman of business and finance. "I just don't think there has been sufficient emphasis to the problem short term and long term. We have felt like an inferior tenant despite having a business that brings 3.5 million people downtown every year."

It's not uncommon for baseball team owners and their landlords to disagree. But in Baltimore, the relationship is growing especially testy.

"I know there is some tension between both these parties, but I think it is a healthy tension between a very aggressive business owner and a state agency charged with protecting the state's coffers," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, chairman of the Appropriations committee.

Both organizations are headed by strong-willed attorneys who have rarely seen eye-to-eye, and the disagreements have not helped them solve mutual problems, such as parking at Camden Yards.

Angelos was initially supportive of Moag's appointment, but that quickly changed. Angelos even asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening to fire Moag in 1995. The governor refused.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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