Costly castle warrants naming after Young, but it won't happen

August 09, 1998|By JOHN STEADMAN

Putting a name on Baltimore's own Grand Canyon, created with 125 tons of soft-toned concrete, where the Ravens will play football for the next 30 years, is the next order of business.

A preview of the facility last night fulfilled the highest of expectations, even if you were seated in Cardiac Heights, 12 stories up from field level, and had to watch the replay boards for a more definitive look at what just happened way down there. Far, far away.

Naturally, it's an impressive structure. How can it not be when the bottom line is going to be between $220 million and $312 million of your money? And sure it's better, which was expected, than Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, which to Cooke's credit he paid for to the tune of $160 million. This was followed by a $70 million grant from the state of Maryland for roads, sewerage and other infrastructures.

What the Baltimore showplace will be called is undecided. The Maryland Stadium Authority, in all its wisdom, sold the naming rights to owner Arthur Modell for a quick $10 million. It might have been the most gracious giveaway since Manhattan Island was bought from the Indians for a handful of costume jewelry, a broken lacrosse stick and a well-worn pair of snowshoes.

This bad business deal for Maryland transpired with few questions asked by investigative reporters or even that rare species known as an inquisitive politician.

Now Modell and the Ravens can take the $10 million investment and turn it into a bonanza that will result in an estimated $40 million to $80 million transaction. So the right to name a publicly funded building is the Ravens' prerogative.

Instead of state coffers benefitting, the money goes to a private business, the already affluent Ravens.

XYZ Corp. can affix its name and logo on the huge edifice for a lengthy number of years, with options for renewal, if it so desires, providing its executives are willing to dig deep into their financial resources in adequate amounts to please the Ravens.

This is what's going on all over America and, whether you like it or not, it's the modern way for a sports entity to drain every last drop of blood out of the turkey.

It's outrageous that such a deal was completed. But it happened, and Gov. Parris Glendening, along with John Moag and Bruce Hoffman of the stadium authority, can't rescind the arrangement, even if they wanted to do so. They simply took the $10 million and signed off, giving the Ravens control of what the name will be.

So far, the Ravens have delayed the process, giving speculation that it's being done to protect the governor from any political backlash from his opponents in the upcoming election.

One newspaper, the Washington Times, has projected the new stadium will cost not $220 million but $312 million.

This is arrived at, according to the publication, by compiling cost overruns and the interest on $88 million worth of revenue bonds. It's estimated that Modell's profit from having the Ravens play in Baltimore this year will come to around $25 million, plus $74 million from permanent seat licenses.

Regardless of how it adds up, the deal is the most lavish gift in the history of sports. Obviously, the streets and alleys of old Baltimore are paved with gold nuggets. Baltimore is the classic sports capital of the nation by what it has built.

If that makes you feel good, then allow yourself to take a bow and offer only deep sympathy to New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other places that have been deprived of having XTC a comparable palace for sports -- which is what the Ravens' stadium represents.

Our hope was that the oval-shaped football complex would be named for Claude "Buddy" Young, who was more than a swift-running halfback for the Baltimore Colts.

Young made a lasting impression on the citizens of the city and state and, along with the late governor and mayor, Theodore R McKeldin, was able to do more for the brotherhood of man than any other individual to grace this city since, before, or after integration became the law of the land.

He used his athletic ability and engaging personality to demonstrate that racial understanding, the true fraternalism of mankind, was the only acceptable moral standard. McKeldin preached it; Young displayed it. He lived here, raised his family here, and his widow, Geraldine, is a remarkable contributor to society at large whodoes only good things for Baltimore.

Young was the first black to join the Colts' front office, the first to work in the NFL, for commissioner Pete Rozelle, and the only NFL figure, black or white, ever to serve on three presidential commissions. Contrast this with his embarrassing introduction to Baltimore.

When Young first visited Baltimore, playing for the New York Yanks of the All-America Football Conference in 1947, he came out of the locker room and noticed two men with lamp black on their faces.

"I didn't know whether I was at a minstrel show or a football game," he would recall.

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