The Washington Bullets will play three regular-season games in Baltimore Arena next season as part of an agreement between Capital Centre officials and the City of Baltimore for Capital Centre Management to manage the arena.
The Bullets also will play two exhibition games there and the Capitals will play one or two preseason games there.
The agreement covers five years and, under a waiver granted by the National Basketball Association, the Bullets could play as many as four regular-season games there each season. Jerry Sachs, executive vice president of Capital Centre, said yesterday a decision on whether to play Bullets games there after next season would depend "on what kind of reception, success it has."
Sachs also said that Capital Centre officials did not contemplate playing any regular-season Capitals game at the arena, formerly called the Baltimore Civic Center, because the facility does not meet NHL capacity requirements and because it already has a hockey tenant, the Baltimore Skipjacks of the American Hockey League.
But Sachs said Capitals officials are attempting to form a working agreement with the Skipjacks, who would replace Binghamton as their AHL farm team.
The agreement with Baltimore means that Capital Centre Management, a Capital Centre subsidiary, now will manage three arenas in the region -- Capital Centre, George Mason University's Patriot Center and the Baltimore Arena, which has been subsidized by $600,00-$700,000 annually by the city of Baltimore.
Sachs said Capital Centre Management, which he called "a major division in our organization," has made proposals to manage municipal and college arenas in other parts of the country, but no others in this region. Sachs also said that the Bullets had no plans to play any regular-season games at the Patriot Center or at the Washington Convention Center.
The Bullets will continue to play one exhibition at the Patriot Center. The two exibition games in Baltimore will be against Philadelphia and Detroit, a Bullets spokesman said.
Sachs said he expects Baltimore and Capital Centre officials to sign a letter of understanding by early next week, after which a contract will be written.
Under the agreement with Baltimore, the city will continue to subsidize the operation of the arena for as long as five years, the term of the agreement. Sachs said the amount would depend on how well the arena fares financially under Capital Centre Management and the subsidy could end sooner if the arena shows a profit in less than five years.
The Bullets will join the Boston Celtics as the only teams in the NBA playing games on a second home court. The Celtics play three games a season in Hartford.
Bullets Coach Wes Unseld, whose team is preparing for the fifth and deciding game of a first-round playoff series against the Detroit Pistons, said he hadn't had time to think about playing home games in Baltimore. "It's a good move or they wouldn't have done it," he said. "At this stage that's the way I have to look at it."
Taking Bullets games to Baltimore, which was first reported by the Baltimore Sun and Washington Times yesterday, is a logical progression in the team's strategy to expand its ticket base, Sachs said. The Bullets moved from Baltimore to Washington after the 1972-73 season.
"You can feel the receptivity increasing," Sachs said. "It's an opportunity to increase that by bringing the team live to the fans in Baltimore. Hopefully it will be beneficial and people will come to Capital Centre more frequently now that they can see the team live in Baltimore."
The Bullets finished 20th in the NBA in attendance this season, averaging 10,570 per game, a decrease of 1,268 from the 1986-87 season, although gross ticket reveunue was up 18 percent following a major increase in prices. Season ticket sales last season were just under 4,000, an all-time high for the team.