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  Pollin Teams Snubbed in Annapolis

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 30, 1993; Page B03

Maryland legislative leaders dismissed talk of helping the Washington Bullets and Capitals sports teams campaign for state relocation aid so they could focus on the Washington Redskins' planned move to Laurel, according to participants at the recent meeting of lawmakers.

Their decision not to link the basketball Bullets and hockey Capitals to the Laurel project indicates that sports entrepreneur Abe Pollin may have an uphill fight if he asks the state to help pay for a building to replace his USAir Arena in Landover.

Pollin is looking at how the state might help him get a new, long-term home for his franchises.

"There's all kinds of deals that could be worked out," said state Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Senate Committee on Budget and Taxation. "It could be a cooperative effort."

Pollin is considering renovating or replacing his aging 19,000-seat USAir Arena because it lacks modern amenities and is not easily accessible to fans.

The discussion took place at a meeting of legislative leaders in early December in the Senate Lounge in Annapolis to review efforts by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to move his team to a privately built stadium in Laurel.

Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad and Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, also were present.

While some legislative leaders have said new arenas should be built with private money, others said they would not rule out state help.

"It's critical to keep the teams in the Washington-Maryland area," said House Speaker Pro Tem Gary R. Alexander (D-Prince George's). "All of us are willing to look at anything."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), opposes public funding. Miller's counterpart in the House of Delegates, Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), who will become House speaker Jan. 12, said yesterday the state should go slow in considering moves by professional teams.

"In a relatively short period of time, we're being asked to look at all kinds of sports franchises and their relative locations," Taylor said. "That indicates to me the need to do some long-range strategizing about the Baltimore-Washington area's future in professional sports before we start playing musical chairs with all the franchises."

Pollin wants to harness for his moving needs the $89 million bonding capacity held by the stadium authority, aides said. He has hired Legg Mason Inc., a securities firm, to perform feasibility studies on moving the teams. Options include Baltimore, Washington and Laurel. District officials say they are strongly interested in the teams.

The discussion of USAir Arena at the State House began with a sheet distributed by Belgrad listing several talking points.

They included the proposition that the time had come for the General Assembly to pay more heed to the Bullets' and Capitals' economic impact on the region, the inadequacy of USAir Arena, the need for moving and how to finance the move.

Alexander said the talks ended quickly because "no one wanted to complicate the {football} issue."

Staff writer Richard Tapscott contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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