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Browns moving to Baltimore

By
NANCY KERCHEVAL

BALTIMORE, Nov. 6 -- Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening made it official Monday afternoon when he finally confirmed after a week of wild speculation the Cleveland Browns will be moving to Baltimore. 'The Browns are indeed coming to Baltimore,' said Glendening at about 12:40 p.m. EST, before a large crowd of fans and members of the media. 'We are standing on the very spot where in less than three years, 70,000 people will be cheering for the Baltimore Browns,' said the governor, in a parking lot next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. 'This is a day of historic import and excitement,' said Maryland Stadium Authority Chief John Moag. Meanwhile, the 30-year rent-free deal to move the Browns to Baltimore was challenged earlier Monday by the city of Cleveland which maintains owner Art Modell has a contract to play in Ohio through the 1998 season. Glendening confirmed that the contract to bring the Browns to town was signed 10 days ago. The Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League were scheduled to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. EST to announce that team's future plans. Three hours before Modell's announcement, attorneys for the city of Cleveland filed a request in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to force Modell to honor his contract, which stipulates the team will play all of its home games and maintain an NFL franchise in the city until the end of the 1998 season. A Cuyahoga County judge granted the city's request for a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Nov. 20.

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The agreement calls for no upfront money, but does provide for up to $75 million to cover moving expenses and a $15 million training facility if enough permanent seat licenses are sold to fans who want to pay for the right to purchase season tickets. The state also would finance a $200 million open-air 70,000-seat football stadium with 108 luxury boxes and 7,500 club seats next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Browns would receive all concession, parking and advertising signage fees and pay no rent, but would be responsible for operations and maintenance costs expected to be $3 million to $4 million a year. For the 1996 and 1997 seasons, the Browns would move into Memorial Stadium, the former home of the Baltimore Colts who were moved out of the city in the middle of the night to Indianapolis 12 years ago. The deal was signed Oct. 27 aboard the private plane of Browns minority owner Alfred Lerner at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. On board were Modell, Lerner, Moag, Glendening, Modell's son David, who is also the Browns vice president, and Browns executive vice president Jim Bailey. Cleveland Mayor Michael White was in Baltimore for the news conference. He vowed to fight to save the team and had hoped Tuesday's passage of Issue 5, or the so-called 'sin tax' to raise money for stadium renovations by taxing alcohol and cigarettes, would encourage Modell to change his mind. In Baltimore, the Browns' move topped the news and talk shows with fans showing a mixed bag of emotions. Remembering the pain of the stealthy move of the Colts by owner Robert Irsay, the callers and politicians were sympathetic to Browns fans, but at the same time, they could hardly contain the excitement of the prospect of NFL ball returning to the city. Modell, meanwhile, was expected to fly to his Florida home and not return to Cleveland for any of his team's remaining three regular-season home games. Cleveland fans' emotions concerning the pending move included anger, sadness and frustration due to Modell's promise last year to never to move the team from Cleveland as long as he owned it. Modell failed to attend the Browns' Sunday game -- the first time in 35 years of ownership that he did not attend a Browns home game. He reportedly flew outside the 75-mile TV blackout area to watch the game on television after being advised there was the potential for hostility from emotional fans. 'This is more like a funeral than a football game,' Tony Schaefer, 44, of Sandusky, Ohio, told the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer during the Sunday game. Schaefer said he had been attending Browns football games for more than 30 years. 'I sat in my office with a 12-pack of beer (Saturday) night and cried. I really did. I cried.'

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