Stadium authority questioned on sky boxes Delegate wants to know how sky boxes will be paid for.


A state legislator wants the Maryland Stadium Authority to explain how it will pay for 60 luxury sky boxes now being built into the Camden Yards baseball stadium because those costs were omitted from the original financing plan.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-City, an appropriations subcommittee chairman, asked the authority to submit by this week a written plan of how the suites will be financed.

A state report said last week that the authority "does not have the estimated $4 million needed to construct and furnish the boxes without using all of its remaining contingency funds," said legislative budget analyst Ann Marie Zalewski.

Zalewski said yesterday that the authority did not budget for the luxury suites, hoping to fund the construction with $24 million from three instant lottery games.

But construction overruns ate up the lottery funds, and there is not enough money to pay for the sky boxes, she said. The $105.4 million stadium is to open in April 1992.

"Right now, they've got to be working on the sky boxes" while determining how to pay for them, Zalewski said.

She said the stadium authority has let contracts totaling $83.6 million and expect bids on three remaining contracts to total $18.2 million. That would place the total cost of the project at $101.8 million and leave a "contingency" fund of $3.6 million to cover any cost overruns or change orders.

Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the authority, has said the stadium project is on budget.

When asked about the $4 million deficit reported by Zalewski, Hoffman said, "There's no problem with completing them. We're not asking the state for a nickel."

Zalewski said the authority could seek sky-box financing from the Maryland Economic Development Corp., an agency of the Department of Economic and Employment Development. But the three-year leases required of sky-box purchase make a loan from that agency risky if the recession continues, she said.

The Orioles are selling the sky boxes mainly to local businesses. The cost of the suites ranges from $55,000 to $95,000 a year, including a non-refundable reservation deposit of $10,000. In December, Oriole officials reported that 32 of the 60 suites had been reserved.

Under the 15-year lease between the Orioles and the authority, the state will construct, equip, furnish and maintain the luxury suites while the Orioles will market and sell the boxes and earn all revenue generated from them.

From the revenues, the Orioles will pay the authority an amortized cost of construction over 15 years, while the cost of furnishings will be paid back over five years.

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