Alternative Leagues and Sports Facilities
Baltimore confronted serious economic problems in 1980. A quarter of its population lived below the federal poverty line. In the previous decade its population had declined 13 percent and it lost fifty thousand jobs. Between 1980 and 1983 another twenty thousand Baltimore jobs vanished. In the midst of these hard times, the owner of the NFL Colts, Bob Irsay, began playing Baltimore against Indianapolis to secure the best deal for his club. Baltimore refused to build a new stadium for the Colts, claiming that Memorial Stadium was sufficient if not "one of the best in sports." So one night in March 1983, Irsay had his team's property loaded into moving vans and sent the vehicles west to Indianapolis, where the Colts would play in the new Hoosier Dome. 1
The loss of the Colts struck a responsive chord with Baltimore's civic leaders. They then accepted the notion "that cities had to meet the demands of the leagues and franchises." Meanwhile, following Irsay's lead, the owner of the Orioles, Edward Bennett Williams, hinted that he might transfer the team to Washington if Baltimore refused to build a new ballpark. As Charles C. Euchner put it: "Williams was in the driver's seat." 2
By the late 1980s Baltimore residents demonstrated little enthusiasm for building a new stadium. Even so, William Schaefer, the city's former mayor who had opposed Irsay's demand for a new facility, had changed his position on the issue. Now governor of Maryland, Schaefer acted quickly. He did not want to be held accountable for losing another major league franchise in Baltimore. He pressed for and promoted the stadium as an economic development package to revitalize downtown Baltimore. A large public works project would involve big contracts and create jobs. At the same time, the project would help restore the luster of the city, which had dulled considerably after the departure of the Colts. With all this in mind, the Maryland Stadium Authority was established "to operate above the tangled politics of Baltimore City." As Euchner described
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Publication information: Book title: Relocating Teams and Expanding Leagues in Professional Sports:How the Major Leagues Respond to Market Conditions. Contributors: Frank P. Jozsa Jr. - Author, John J. GuthrieJr. - Author. Publisher: Quorum Books. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 157.
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