The state commission studying options for a new stadium for the Baltimore Orioles delivered to Gov. Harry Hughes today a consultant's report recommending that a new sports facility be built on 200 acres of land south of Baltimore and east of Rte. I-95.
Bernard Manekin, the Baltimore businessman who headed the 13-member professional sports advisory committee appointed by Hughes, made the announcement at a press conference here today. Manekin and other members of the commission favored the site picked by the consultant, HNTB Sports Facilities Group of Kansas City, Mo.
The proposed 70,000-seat facility, which would house both the Orioles and a new National Football League team that the city hopes to attract, would cost nearly $174 million to build, according to the report.
The recommended site, which is near Baltimore County's Lansdowne neighborhood, would cost about $27 million less to acquire and develop than the downtown location that has been supported by Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and by the commission he appointed to study the matter.
The question of where a new stadium would be built has become a political issue for Schaefer and for Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, both gubernatorial candidates. It is expected that the governor elected in November will have to make a decision about a stadium site after the Manekin committee completes its work.
Schaefer has steadfastly argued against building any new sports facility outside of the city, where property tax benefits would accrue to another jurisdiction. Sachs has characterized Schaefer's stand as a parochial one that does not reflect an interest in the state's economy.
"We didn't make these recommendations to appease this or any future governor," Manekin said.
HNTB Sports Facilities Group, which designed the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., and Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, evaluated the merits of the Lansdowne and downtown Baltimore sites as well as a third location in Anne Arundel County near Baltimore-Washington International airport. The downtown Baltimore site ranked third in the consultants' report.
"Lansdowne clearly came out to be the best site," said Stuart Rog of Touche-Ross, which contracted with HNTB for the study.
Schaefer said in a telephone interview that he is angry that the sports commission rated the Camden Yards proposal third. He especially criticized its finding that the city would not gain a significant economic benefit from putting the stadium downtown.
"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you have 25,000 people coming into an area, the restaurants and businesses would benefit," said Schaefer, who is drafting a letter of protest that he said he will mail to the governor this week.
Sachs declined comment today.
In its ranking of the three alternative locations, the consultants paid special attention to the cost of the project as well as to the location's accessibilty for traffic and parking.
The greatest difference in the ranking formula of the three locations came in the projected cost for land acquisition. The downtown Baltimore site, west of the Inner Harbor and known as Camden Yards, would have cost $33 million.
That figure would have been increased by $15 million for the construction of three parking garages because the site did not have enough space for parking lots.
Residents of the high-priced town houses and condominiums in neighborhoods surrounding the Camden Yards site have complained that such a facilty would create traffic and congestion problems. And Park Sausages, a Baltimore company located in Camden Yards, has threatened to leave the city entirely if the plan is approved.