Ravens mad over missing parking spot near home

City's lease with CBS Radio not best for fans, team claims

May 30, 2007|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens are upset with the city's parking authority for leasing a lot used for game-day bus parking to a local radio group and say the team was not given a fair shot at bidding on the space.

The city agreed to lease Lot O, a space not far from Russell Street near M&T Bank Stadium, to CBS Radio last July. But the Ravens say the city reached the deal without notifying the club, the Maryland Stadium Authority or major local parking companies that the space was available.

In an April 19 letter to the parking authority, team president Dick Cass said the Ravens would have bid at least $60,000 a year compared with the $25,000 CBS paid and would have guaranteed far more space for game-day parking.

Cass wrote that the bidding process "led to a flawed deal for the city, not only in lost money, but also in failing to protect the interests of fans coming to our games on buses or seeking parking near the stadium."

The Ravens want the contract with CBS terminated and another shot at bidding for Lot O.

The parking authority has said it acted appropriately, advertising a request for proposals on the property, and will not terminate the five-year deal. CBS has agreed to allow bus parking at the lot, so the Ravens' chief practical concern is resolved, said Peter Little, executive director of the parking authority.

"I think we're really getting the best of both worlds," Little said. "We're still getting the public parking, but the city is realizing more revenue from the space."

A CBS Radio official said fans have more opportunities to use the lot for parking and tailgating than they did before last season.

"From our standpoint, we wanted to promote it as a place for the common fan to have premium parking," CBS Radio general manager Bob Philips said. "And it turned into a popular tailgating spot."

Philips said he happened upon the lot while looking for places near the stadium to broadcast pre- and post-game shows. Last season, CBS offered about 300 parking spots to fans at $35 per game and set up a tent for those who wanted to tailgate. The lot was so popular that several hundred fans remain on a waiting list in case spots open, Philips said.

But Cass said the CBS contract offers no guarantee of space for the 77 to 85 buses that normally use the lot during Ravens home games. He added that the contract guarantees only 90 parking spaces on game days when the lot can hold 350 cars in addition to buses.

He said if the Ravens leased the lot, they would guarantee spaces for 85 buses and 300 cars for every home game.

The lease did not create a practical conflict last season because CBS agreed to let buses park in the lot for free.

"Our interest all along is in helping the fans find suitable parking," Cass said. "In that sense, our principal concern has been addressed."

Philips said he was reluctant to allow the buses to park without compensation to CBS, which broadcasted Ravens games on WJFK (1300 AM) from 1996 until the 2005 season.

"But I figured that if the Ravens were upset, it was a way to try to placate them," he said.

The city acquired Lot O in 1998 to ensure adequate parking for buses during events at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens used it under an arrangement between the city and the stadium authority.

But after CBS inquired about the lot, the parking authority saw a chance to make extra money by leasing it. So the agency advertised a request for proposals in City Paper, a typical venue for such an advertisement, according to Little. He said he thought the Ravens knew of the city's plans for the space.

Cass noted in his letter that the city discussed a long-term lease of Lot O with the stadium authority in 2005 and 2006 but never notified the authority that CBS had entered a bid for the space. The city also failed to mention the CBS bid when the stadium authority asked to use the lot for the Franklin Graham festival last July and for the Navy-Notre Dame football game last October.

"Indeed, it almost appears as though the Parking Authority did not want potentially interested parties to know that CBS was interested in leasing Lot O," Cass wrote.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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