NFL dream is hot ticket as top-dollar seats sell fast


A week after the kickoff of a 60-day marketing campaign meant to impress the National Football League, the most expensive seats in Baltimore's proposed football stadium are gone, and the cheapest seats are going fast.

So forget about that $105,000 luxury suite. And move quickly if you want a $700 club seat. But there are plenty of seats available at prices in between, though they're selling briskly, said Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who's coordinating the campaign to bring an NFL expansion team here.

Down in Charlotte, N.C., one of four cities competing with Baltimore for two NFL franchises, civic leaders are projecting 40,000 to 45,000 seats already sold.

But Mr. Belgrad will not be goaded into saying exactly how many seats have been sold here. "Just a numbers game," he says. Charlotte's boasting is "good old marketing" intended to impress would-be buyers.

"I don't count a seat sold until I have a contract signed and a check in hand."

Matt DeVito, co-chairman of the expansion committee, says that "all the usual suspects" -- the corporations that lease suites at Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- have committed to leasing football skyboxes.

"I don't think this is an act of patriotism as much as it's just people who want good seats when we get football here," Mr. DeVito says. "It's not just boosterism."

Mr. Belgrad won't say exactly which companies have signed contracts. He doesn't have to report the pace of sales to the NFL until July 19, and sales continue until Sept. 3.

But this much he will say:

* The eight most expensive luxury suites, between the 40-yard lines, have been leased -- at $105,000 each. In fact, 14 companies have put in requests for the eight skyboxes -- meaning six big companies are on a waiting list for the priciest suites. The new stadium would have about 100 skyboxes in a range of prices depending on size and location.

* The highest-priced club seats -- more than 1,000, at $1,700 each, between the 35-yard lines -- sold out almost instantaneously in the first hours of sales last week.

* The least expensive club seats -- at $700 each -- are the next best sellers, along with the least costly skyboxes. Those lease for $45,000 for a 12-seat suite on the club level and $50,000 for a 16-seat skybox on the suite level.

Some of the area's biggest corporations are among the first buyers.

Maryland National Bank, which will be acquired by Charlotte-based NationsBank this fall, has committed to a seven-year lease for a 16-person suite on the 50-yard line, says spokesman Dan Finney.

In addition, Maryland National has signed up for 60 club seats between the 40-yard lines -- half the seats priced at $1,700 and half at $1,400.

Maryland National also is underwriting the cost of the sales headquarters at the Gallery and offering financing plans for football fans who want to buy season tickets, Mr. Finney says.

The Baltimore law firm of Gordon Feinblatt Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander, a suite-holder at Oriole Park, has committed to a five-year lease for a 16-seat skybox at the 40-yard line. Legg Mason has committed to lease a box as well, along with C&P; Telephone, Crown Central Petroleum and Baltimore Gas & Electric.

The law firm of Whiteford Taylor & Preston, which leases a box at Oriole Park, has instead bought 16 club seats, at $1,700 each, for football.

The firm of Shapiro & Olander has signed up for eight club seats.

"We're out of the box very, very strong," Mr. DeVito says.

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