Balto. County nears pact on Ravens facility

Officials have reached tentative agreement

February 09, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County and the Baltimore Ravens have reached a tentative agreement on a 25-year lease for 25 acres of Owings Mills parkland where the team plans to build a training facility.

Final details are being worked out, but County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's top aide, Robert J. Barrett, and Economic Development Executive Director Robert L. Hannon have briefed County Council members on the proposed pact, which will require council approval.

County officials expect a formal announcement as early as next week.

Under the proposed agreement, the Ravens likely would pay nominal rent for the land. The arrangement would be similar to the $1-a-year lease the team had for a city-owned facility at 11001 Owings Mills Blvd., said Elise Armacost, Ruppersberger's spokeswoman.

Still to be ironed out is how much access the public would have to the training camp, planned for a site west of Deer Park Road that is part of 322 acres the county purchased -- using state money -- for Northwest Regional Park.

One of the issues the council will focus on in evaluating the agreement is finances.

Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt has objected to the team's $1-a-year deal with the city. Baltimore County councilmen said they want to make sure the county gets a good deal.

"I certainly am not in favor of allowing any profit-making entity to make use of public lands without paying a fair-market value in return," said Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, who has not been briefed on the details. "There has to be some greater benefit than civic pride."

Armacost noted that many of the team's players and other employees live in the county because of the training facility's location. If the team moved, Ravens' employees -- many of them highly paid -- might leave too, costing the county tax revenue.

"If this works out, it's a deal on both ends," Armacost said. "Obviously, the Ravens are getting something they want out of it, but we won't do it unless the county gets something out of it, too."

The county's Office of Economic Development estimates that losing the training camp could cost the county about $2 million a year in income and property taxes.

The council also will focus on how much access the public would have to the facility, and whether the Ravens would make other improvements to the site besides the training camp, which would include four football fields, a training area and administrative offices, councilmen said.

The tentative agreement would require the Ravens to provide a lighted football field for public use. The county also would like to hold football camps, recreation council championship games and other events at the site, Armacost said.

The council will have to vote on the final agreement and a zoning change for the property. The Planning Board has recommended that the land be rezoned.

Council Chairman John A. Olszewski Sr. said the proposed agreement seems like a good one, given the economic impact of the training facility and the fact that the county wouldn't have to put up any money for land or construction.

"I think it makes sense," he said.

The Ravens made an offer to stay at the city facility, pay $1 a year and make a charitable contribution in the city's name, Pratt said. That was "not acceptable" -- the city needs the cash, she said.

The lease with the city ended in April; Pratt said that means the team owes a year of fair-market rent. "It was an agreement they had for five years as an incentive to get them here," but it ended, she said. "They owe us $200,000, and I'm going to actively pursue getting that for the city."

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