Baltimore may host United

Stadium conflict has D.C. team considering heading north for tournament

Pro soccer

April 19, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN REPORTER

Could top-flight soccer make a stop in Baltimore?

That's one of the visions of Paul A. Tiburzi, chairman of the Camden Yards Sports and Entertainment Commission, which last week led officials from D.C. United and Major League Soccer on tours of M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park.

"From Day One, we've always been interested in bringing a top-notch soccer event here, but only if the Ravens or Orioles are interested in having it, they're our partners," Tiburzi said. "D.C. United has expressed an interest in playing in Camden Yards."

Oriole Park was considered for an August 2006 game between D.C. United and Real Madrid. That was played in Seattle.

According to Doug Hicks, D.C. United's vice president of communications, a conflict with the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium has the team exploring other venues for a possible match in the inaugural SuperLiga tournament, which will involve the top four teams from both Mexico and the United States.

"We've been speaking with them [Tiburzi's group], specifically about the semifinals of the SuperLiga in mid-summer," Hicks said.

The Daily Record of York, Pa., first reported Baltimore's most recent pitch.

Tiburzi, whose commission was created by the Maryland Stadium Authority, said Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium could accommodate a FIFA-approved field.

Issues at Oriole Park could include placing sod over the infield and leveling the pitcher's mound. The artificial surface at M&T Bank Stadium is heavily branded. One solution would be to cover it with a temporary grass surface.

"Many MLS teams don't want to play on artificial turf," said Alison Asti, executive director of the stadium authority. "It's possible that we could roll out real grass at M&T Bank Stadium. The question is: Would the expense of that fit into the budget?"

Dennis Mannion, the Ravens' senior vice president for business ventures, acknowledged the team's interest.

"We'd be very interested in hosting a game or games," Mannion said. "The key issue centers on the field surface, but I think the size of the stadium is perfect. We can house 30,000 in the lower bowl and 8,000 on the club level, which creates the intimate environment soccer fans are used to."

Tiburzi led D.C. United senior vice president Stephen Zack and an MLS representative on a tour of the two stadiums April 12. Tiburzi is a partner at the Baltimore branch of DLA Piper, which will host a reception for D.C. United on April 26.

"I love soccer," Tiburzi said, "and I'm trying to bring it to Baltimore."

Orioles officials could not be reached.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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