Governor Harry Hughes' sports study commission released the final version of a report today recommending that the General Assembly create an agency to oversee attracting and retaining Maryland sports franchises.
The 191-page report is the result of a year-long study by the 13-member Special Advisory Commission on Professional Sports and the Economy that sets forth a state professional sports action plan intended to provide financial and planning support for the state's baseball, football, soccer and hockey franchises and its racing industry.
Chief among the commission's recommendations is that the state build a $166 million stadium to house the Baltimore Orioles, a multiyear expenditure that some legislators have already said is not likely to win approval in a year when the state faces a crisis with its savings and loan industry.
Hughes, in accepting the report at a formal ceremony in his State House office, said he does not think that financing for the stadium proposed by the commission will be affected by Maryland's savings and loan crisis.
"I don't think the savings and loan problem, or question, will have any relationship to the issue at all," he said at a news conference.
State officials have estimated that the cost of bailing out the state's ailing thrifts is likely to exceed the estimated $177 million in the state insurance fund.
Hughes also said he could support starting an annual sports lottery as one of several ways to finance the cost of building a Baltimore sports complex.
"I can see the rationale there," Hughes said of the lottery, which is projected to raise $30 million a year. Although the legislature has rejected such special lotteries in the past, he added that "there are always exceptions to any rule."
The $200,000 commission report also recommended that the state establish an independent sports development fund and that it lobby for the return of a National Football League franchise to Maryland.
Commission Chairman Bernard Manekin said these and other elements of a recommended 10-year sports plan should be set into motion during 1986 in order to protect the state's $1.2 billion sports industry.
"We intend to vigorously proceed in the next session of the legislature to see that this plan is adopted," he said.
Harry McGuirk, a former state senator who now serves as a legislative liaison for Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, said adoption of the plan should be seen as a way of protecting an important state industry.
"If it doesn't pass , we're not only going to lose time, we're going to lose sports," he said.
Schaefer, who is out of the country on a trade mission to China, has not yet read a copy of the report, according to an aide.
But commission members were not uniformly pleased with the result of the one-year sports study. Odessa Shannon, an aide to Montgomery County Executive Charles Gilchrist, said she is concerned about the proposed funding for the new stadium.
"I hope that when we discuss the stadium we can look to more creative ways of financing it," she said. "I have some concern about using general obligation bonds when I have other priorities such as roads and schools."
Commission Vice Chairman Morton Rosen criticized the owners of Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore for not using $3.5 million in tax relief granted this year by the General Assembly for improvements at the track. "When an owner will not submit to our commission what they intend to do to improve the facility, it's in direct conflict with the intent of the legislature as well as the workings of this commission," Rosen said.