St. Louis Cardinals owner William Bidwill met for two hours with Maryland Stadium Authority officials during the National Football League meetings in Kansas City Tuesday, but Herbert Belgrad, the authority's chairman, said, "Clearly, we're not negotiating at this point for a lease on our football stadium."
Belgrad said Bidwill and his attorney came to the stadium authority's hospitality suite seeking information about plans for a football stadium approved for Camden Yards if Baltimore secures an NFL franchise. "He was very careful not to talk in terms of his own franchise, but an expansion franchise," Belgrad said.
Bidwill has been dissatisfied with Busch Stadium in St. Louis because it seats only 54,392 -- the second smallest capacity in the 28-team league behind Houston's Astrodome -- and efforts to build a new stadium have not gotten off the ground.
Belgrad said Baltimore would not begin negotiating a lease with Bidwill -- or any other current NFL owners -- until he declares his intention to move his team.
"I made it clear to him that, in the past, when Rankin Smith was looking to shop the Falcons or Bud Adams was looking to shop the Oilers, as long as there was an effort being made to negotiate, we weren't going to get involved and be used as leverage," Belgrad said. "We were the victims of raiding ourselves, and to keep our credibility, we're not going to become raiders of somebody else's franchise."
Belgrad described the two-hour meeting with Bidwill as "very pleasant."
It was the first time since Robert Irsay moved the Colts to Indianapolis on a March night in 1983 that a Baltimore contingent has attended an NFL meeting, Belgrad said. He said the stadium authority invited all owners and NFL staff to the hospitality suite, and that Bidwill first visited on Monday for about an hour before returning with his lawyer Tuesday.
Since the stadium authority is a state agency, Belgrad said he plans to report on the Bidwill meeting to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. But, he warned, "Please don't try to read into this something more than it is."