John Liparini, owner of the American Soccer League champion Maryland Bays, will meet with a Howard County official today to discuss the team's future in Columbia and the possibility of playing in a new, medium-sized stadium.
During a meeting this morning with Jeff Bourne, the county's director of parks and recreation, Liparini hopes to reach an agreement so the team can continue to play its home games next season at Cedar Lane Park, a municipal facility on Route 108.
"We'd like to stay," Liparini said. "We'll talk about the prospects of improving the park and the potential for beyond next year."
They also will discuss the possible construction of a 10,000-15,000-seat facility that would be built at Howard County Community College in Columbia and open in 1992.
A stadium of that size likely would meet the requirements for a team applying for admission to a national professional league, which the U.S. Soccer Federation has indicated it wants to create prior to 1994, when the United States will host the World Cup finals.
Liparini hopes to finalize a plan for his Bays before the league owners meetings, which begin Friday in Boston. At that time, some teams may indicate where they will play next season.
Improvements to Cedar Lane Park must be made if the Bays are to stay, Liparini said. Heavy use and a wet spring left the playing surface in terrible shape for much of the season. The facility also lacks an electric scoreboard and adequate media facilities, and can accommodate only 3,000 spectators.
Because of financial problems, as few as eight teams may play next year, the league's fourth season. A franchise will be added in Raleigh, N.C., but many clubs reportedly have lost more money than anticipated and may not be able to survive.
During the summer, Liparini held preliminary discussions with Washington Stars owner John Koskinen and Washington Diplomats owner Julio Pinon about a merger of their financially troubled clubs into one franchise that would play at the Diplomats' home field, RFK Stadium.
However, with the Bays' success on the field and at the gate, Liparini may stay in Columbia, endure another year of losses and try to gain entry into the USSF's proposed league.
The Bays will play the Western Soccer League champion San Francisco Bay Blackhawks for the American Professional Soccer League title Saturday at 8 at Boston University's Nickerson Field. It's the only game between the leagues, which merged for business and marketing purposes last year.
The Bays' attendance rose from 1,074 fans per game at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville last year to 1,698 this year, including 2,664 for the final four home matches. Maryland was one of only three ASL teams to show an increase. Overall, league attendance per game dropped from about 2,500 to about 1,900.