Construction of a new multipurpose stadium in Baltimore rather than a refurbishing of Memorial Stadium has been recommended by a mayoral task force, which hopes the new arena -- assuming it is approved -- will be ready for the Orioles' 1988 season.
J. Henry Butta said his 13-man task force of businessmen will seek funds from the Maryland legislature to help build the 60,000- to 65,000-seat facility.
No site for the proposed stadium was selected, but one of those prominently mentioned was the Port Covington area in south Baltimore, which is near Interstate Rte. 95, and which would shorten the distance to Orioles games for Washington-area fans.
Butta said at a press conference Tuesday that his group made its recommendation following a study by Ron Labinski, an architect who has designed several modern sports complexes. Labinski said his study found that it would cost about $57 million to renovate Memorial Stadium, compared with $80 million to build a new facility.
Butta's group has asked Labinski to study construction costs and possible sites so that it can approach the Maryland General Assembly within the next 2 1/2 months. Labinski already has recommended that the stadium be built within the city.
"The mayor supports the recommendation," a spokesman for Mayor William Donald Schaefer said yesterday. "Originally, he favored renovation and felt that Mr. Labinski would come back with that recommendation.
"But Mr. Labinski has made some very substantial arguments that the best use of the money would be in building a new stadium, and the mayor has been persuaded by the arguments."
Schaefer appointed the task force shortly after the Colts moved to Indianapolis. Its stated purpose was to seek another National Football League franchise and to study ways to improve Memorial Stadium.
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Baltimore), speaker of the Maryland House, told reporters yesterday he is "very supportive" of the idea of a new stadium. "We are willing to support a new stadium or renovations (to Memorial Stadium)," he said.
But Cardin added that a key requirement in satisfying the legislature would be a commitment from the Orioles that they would use the new facility. "A letter of intent" from Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams would be needed, according to Cardin.
"Mr. Williams is a lot different from Mr. Irsay," said Cardin, referring to Colts owner Robert Irsay, who moved the football team. "We just need an expression that he will maintain the franchise for the indefinite future."
Williams has complained to Baltimore city officials since he purchased the Orioles in 1979 about claimed inadequacies of Memorial Stadium, including access and parking. Parking has been a major concern to the Orioles since their attendance has grown in recent years to the 2 million level.
Williams could not be reached for comment yesterday.