Old ArenaRegarding the Board of Estimates' approval...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Old Arena

Regarding the Board of Estimates' approval of a five-year extension of Centre Management's contract to operate the Baltimore Arena and the objections raised by Council President Mary Pat Clarke that the contract should be bid, I would like to give her the courtesy of an explanation of why this is such a good deal for the city and also try and help her understand the current status of the arena business in general.

First, the Baltimore Arena is not a jewel in the crown of concert and/or sport arenas across the country. It is old, with few modern amenities. Most important, it is undersized by current standards.

Attorney Mark Adams is totally off the mark. The Blast soccer team barely has been able to survive financially because of lack of sightlines for good seats and not enough for sold-out games to make a profit.

How does Mr. Adams intend to find professional sports teams with much higher payrolls than the Blast that would have an interest in a building that at best can only accommodate 11,000?

By managing the building, Abe Pollin has an interest in the success of the building and is willing to schedule Bullets basketball at the arena with a much lower box office potential. His attitude carries over to concerts in the arena.

In a 1990 article on the status of the concert business, Dave Williams, president of Cellar Door Concerts, said Baltimore "is a lousy concert town" when he was asked his opinion of the arena. If that is the opinion of one of the top concert promoters in the country, who does Mr. Adams and Ms. Clarke think Mayor Kurt Schmoke would attract to the building with an open bid process?

The truth of the matter is we are very fortunate that Mr. Pollin's group has agreed to undertake this management agreement because the city has gained not only competent leadership but access to the networking of a company involved in a variety of venues and entertainment-related activities.

The Travis Tritt show at the Arena on May 22, which was not a financial success, was co-presented by Musicentre Productions, the concert-presenting division of Mr. Pollin's organization. At NTC least Centre Management is willing to try and does not consider Baltimore a "lousy" anything.

It is Mayor Schmoke's responsibility to give a better explanation to Ms. Clarke justifying his actions, which in this case I believe the citizens of Baltimore should fully support and applaud.

Bud Becker

Baltimore

The writer is an entertainment consultant.

Horse Beefs

Ross Peddicord's June 23 story, "Shore simulcasting falls flat," made me so mad with frustration I am truly vexed. The current leaders of the horse racing industry defy description. Their bungling is exceeded only by their obvious manifestations of incompetence.

I can assure you that the public gets more information through White House leaks than the racing industry's publicity department. These clowns mismanage.

Instead of bemoaning falling attendance figures at thoroughbred tracks, owner Joe De Francis should take a close look at the cavalier attitude manifested toward the people who are doing the spending. I'm one disgusted veteran horse player.

Frederic Holland

Millville, Del.

Game Not for 'All'

Baseball as American as apple pie? So how does the average blue-collar worker get tickets to the All-Star Game?

Not as easily as senators, congressmen and corporate executives. It seems that in Baltimore, the ticket to getting into the All-Star Game is holding an official or prestigious title.

So what reward do we offer the average blue-collar worker who is suffering heat exhaustion while busily enhancing the gateway to this special event? A longshot chance he will be able to acquire a ticket through the limited channels offered the average baseball fan.

These are the same average Americans who pay the high ticket prices to attend the all-American pastime throughout the season, which in turn generates taxes and revenue and made Camden Yards a reality for the Orioles and Baltimore.

Yes, I am one of those average blue-collar workers suffering in the heat to prepare the gateway so senators, congressman and corporate officials can receive free tickets to attend this special event.

And yes, I am frustrated because after months of telephoning the Orioles front office to purchase tickets, entering contests to win tickets and trying every which way to attend the All-Star Game, I find there is little chance for the average worker to attend this once in a lifetime event.

Thomas D. Queen

Frederick

NAACP Blunder

Barely on the job 10 weeks, NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis may have shot himself in the foot. From all appearances, Dr. Chavis did not carefully calculate the risks of entering into a $1 billion fair share agreement with Denny's restaurant owners.

We are somewhat optimistic that the agreement represents a sincere effort to move forward. However, the burning question of the day is whether the motivation of Denny's and NFL aspirants was to defuse discrimination allegations in California, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

On the surface the accord seems laudable, indeed historic. Sounding rather trite and Sadam Husseinish, Dr. Chavis announced afterward, "This is the mother of all fair-share agreements."

For one thing, the NAACP does not have the technological capability or manpower to enforce a nationwide agreement. The organization does not have chapters in the hundreds of locations where Denny's does business. It is capable of monitoring financial promises, but must rely exclusively on data supplied by Denny's.

Less than one-half of one percent of African-Americans are members of the NAACP. How the organization manages the distribution and awarding of contracts to honor the agreement has not been revealed. There is no organizational mechanism in place to allow the NAACP to identify African-American vendors, suppliers and contractors to reach published goals in a fair and equitable manner.

There is, however, a remote possibility that this can be achieved if the NAACP coalesces with other groups, including the Black Chamber of Commerce Action, Urban League, SCLC and the Rainbow Coalition, but we doubt such an arrangement will be forthcoming.

The most suspicious aspect of the agreement is that it gives the appearance that the NAACP does not find allegations of Denny's racial discrimination in four different states to be of major concern.

It can easily be perceived that the oldest civil rights organization has turned a new page, by turning its back on hundreds of African-Americans who have been adversely harmed, and are or will be taking Denny's to court.

To add insult to injury, the NAACP did not have the intestinal fortitude to communicate with the brothers and sisters in the eye of this storm. It is inconceivable that our most "respected" organization did not find it necessary, before chumming up to the corporate powers-that-be, to confer with those who are affected and are indeed suspected to be the motivating factor for the agreement.

And, to add another layer of insult, many of us who have pending legal concerns with Denny's are local NAACP members.

Another possible miscalculation is that the NAACP did not anticipate the backlash from other communities vying for an NFL franchise.

What logic. Before you know what the real deal is, you sell your soul to the company which has demonstrated disrespect for the people for whom you are supposed to advocate. Absolutely unclear vision here.

In essence, what Dr. Chavis is saying is to hell with St. Louis, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Memphis, all of which have NAACP chapters. I suspect the people of Baltimore, where the national NAACP is headquartered, are questioning the motives of such a mind-boggling position.

However, in all fairness to Ben Chavis, the ultimate responsibility lies with the NAACP's board of directors. It's really the board's responsibility to ensure that nothing is done to compromise or tarnish the integrity of the NAACP and its members.

It well may be that Dr. Chavis was hog-tied by the chairman of the NAACP board. Dr. William Gibson and Denny's owner, Jerry Richardson, are "home boys," and there is nothing Mr. Richardson wants more than an NFL team. Big money and enough backslaps can have a tremendous influence on otherwise committed leaders.

It is my strong sense that Dr. Gibson recognizes the benefits of having a pro team nearby. This raises important questions that NAACP convention delegates should ask.

Thomas A. Lucas.

Durham, N.C.

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