City offers Ravens new deal on facility

Mayor's office drafts lease for Owings Mills training center

comptroller upset

`Incumbent on us to get it done'

March 21, 2002|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

City officials said yesterday that they have drafted a contract that would charge the Baltimore Ravens $125,000 a year to lease the team's city-owned training site -- up from $1 a year.

City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. said the Ravens have agreed verbally to the deal but have not signed the two-year lease.

The team will likely use the Owings Mills site until they construct a proposed facility in that area, he said.

"We'll see if they sign it or not," he said.

Ravens owner David Modell could not be reached for comment. Team lawyer Michael D. Colglazier did not return a call.

Criticism of deal

Comptroller Joan M. Pratt immediately criticized the proposed deal and complained that the administration usurped her authority over leases.

She has long argued that the team should pay "fair market value" for rental of the sports complex that the Baltimore Colts used.

An appraisal commissioned by the city states that the rent should be $225,000, but she was willing to accept $200,000, she said.

"The citizens should be outraged that we are accepting an amount that is less than the fair market value," said Pratt, whose office is responsible for preparing leases for city property.

"Why is it that corporate citizens are not made to pay the full value of the assets or services they use that belong to the city?"

For five years, the team leased the sports complex for a token amount of $1 a year. But that lease expired nearly a year ago.

Team officials, with the support of the Maryland Stadium Authority, wanted the $1-a-year deal renewed.

For the past several months, Pratt said she has been trying to negotiate a new contract.

Her complaints about the administration overstepping its bounds touched off a nasty spat with Zollicoffer yesterday at the regular meeting of the Board of Estimates, the five-member body that oversees city spending.

In an interview, Zollicoffer said city officials did not step on Pratt's toes. The mayor has broad economic development powers granted him in the city charter and he can easily argue that the Ravens negotiations fit in that realm, given the restaurant, hotel, and other revenue the team's fans generate, Zollicoffer said.

Talks hit impasse

He said the administration did not plan to get involved with negotiations but talks between Pratt and the Ravens had hit an "impasse."

"The Ravens and the comptroller's office were not communicating. It became incumbent on us to get it done," said Zollicoffer.

He said he had no part in the negotiations, indicating others in the mayor's office did, and drafted the lease after receiving the agreed price about a month ago.

One major negotiating snag, he said, was a stipulation in the initial agreement that the city could not rent or sell the facility to anyone else until the Ravens had built a new site.

"You have very little leverage to negotiate fair market value if you can't put someone else in there," Zollicoffer said.

Under the new lease, that provision would be lifted at the expiration of the contract in 2003, regardless of whether a new site is constructed.

"Which means at the end of the lease if they don't have something built they have to negotiate at fair market value," Zollicoffer said.

"We could sell it. That's the only way we can have any leverage."

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