Gov. William Donald Schaefer has for the first time publicly expressed doubts about Baltimore's ability to attract an National Football League team when the league expands in 1994.
After saying yesterday he was "pessimistic" about Baltimore's chances of replacing the Colts, Schaefer today softened his position but continued to express concern about the city's lack of a solid prospective team owner.
Robert Tisch, a New York City businessman, was the leading candidate to own a new team in Baltimore until he purchased 50 percent of the New York Giants in February. Schaefer said Tisch's decision weakened the state's ability to attract a team. Tisch is a former postmaster general and owner of Loew's Corp.
"Mr. Tisch had money and prestige," Schaefer said today. "When he removed himself . . . you've got to replace him with someone of similar stature.
"The longer you wait, the more difficult it is" to get a team.
"We definitely have money for a new facility but the competition among cities is very difficult, very tough," he said.
"I'm no more pessimistic than I was a year ago, it's just that we've waited a long time."
Yesterday, Schaefer told a meeting of editors and writers at the Washington Post "there are no prospects on the horizon" now that Tisch is out of the picture, a top aide said today.
Schaefer's press secretary, Page Boinest, confirmed the governor's remarks.
"The governor's impressions are that when Tisch dropped out of the picture it was a severe blow," Boinest said. "He had the prestige, the money. He said he was pessimistic."
Herbert J. Belgrad, the governor's point man on stadium development and bringing a team to the city, said today he understands Schaefer's frustration.
Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said Schaefer's pessimistic perspective "is a result of his own personal, painful experiences" dealing with the loss of the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984, and the inability of the city to attract the St. Louis Cardinals when they moved to Phoenix in 1987.
"This is a do-it-now governor," Belgrad said. "The fact there isn't somebody on the scene today and now is frustrating to him. [But] this is not a do-it-now issue. It requires time and effort.
"We're aware of the fact the loss of Bob Tisch was a setback. We've conceded that . . . we've emphasized to him [Schaefer] that proper ownership is absolutely a key ingredient," said Belgrad.
Belgrad said there have been discussions with three groups of potential owners, including Blast owner Edward Hale, Bethesda real estate developer Nathan Landow and a group led by former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr.
He said he also has talked with two different groups in the past month, but declined to name either group.
Belgrad confirmed he had talked with clothing store magnate Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass about possible ownership of the Orioles or of an NFL franchise.