When Cincinnati Bengals vice president Mike Brown envisions the kind of new stadium he wants for his football team, he can see all the way to Baltimore.
"Our preference is for an open-air stadium," Brown said. "Ideally, it would have 70,000 seats and 100 [luxury] boxes. It would be the stadium you plan to build in Baltimore."
Brown also likes the money package in Baltimore.
"Baltimore is certainly one of the most attractive cities," he said. "The money difference is staggering. You have what may be the No. 1 money producer [in the NFL]. Here in Cincinnati, we have what will be the No. 30 revenue producer."
The NFL will have 30 teams in 1995 when the two expansion teams start playing.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Brown also left no doubt that if Cincinnati officials don't get a new stadium approved in the next few months, his team could be playing at Memorial Stadium next season if Baltimore doesn't get an expansion team.
"We recognize that there is a window of opportunity [in Baltimore], and it's not going to be open long," Brown said. "If nothing is done here quickly, our intention would be to take whatever action we think is best for our ballclub. It could be that soon [next year]. Yes, it could."
Brown is aware that Baltimore has collected $8 million in deposits for luxury boxes and club seats and that it might have to refund the money in the next year or so if the city doesn't get a team through expansion or a move. There's also the chance that another team could move here if Brown waits too long.
Brown also clarified remarks he made Friday about the stadium he would like to have built for him in Cincinnati. Yesterday he said he would not be willing to share a new stadium with major-league baseball's Reds. He also said he would be willing to accept a domed stadium, even though his preference is for an open-air stadium.
"That was garbled," Brown said of reports he would be willing to share a stadium with the Reds.
"We need a new [football-only] stadium of some kind," he said.
Although Brown noted that he has been "careful not to mention other cities," he raved about the proposed deal in Baltimore.
Baltimore gets rave review
It's the only expansion city left that is offering to build an open-air stadium. St. Louis is building a domed stadium, and Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn., would be renovating stadiums.
When Brown was asked why Baltimore is an underdog in the expansion derby if its offer is so good, he said: "We have only one vote on that. I can't speak for the NFL or its other clubs. It's certainly a very attractive situation. They've done an amazing job, one that lights up the green eyes in the NFL."
Brown said he only nets $7 million to $8 million a season from the games at Riverfront Stadium. He has no luxury boxes or club seats and only 55,000 seats until the baseball season is over. It increases to 60,000 after the baseball season ends. He also gets no parking revenue.
A team playing in a new stadium in Baltimore would make $12.9 million a year in luxury box and club revenue. It would also make more than $20 million in ticket revenue from home and away games. A Baltimore team also is projected to get $4 million a year in parking and concession revenue.
Baltimore, though, is considered an underdog to St. Louis in the expansion derby because commissioner Paul Tagliabue reportedly wants to place a team in the Central time zone. Charlotte, N.C., was awarded the 29th team on Oct. 26. The second -- and 30th -- team is scheduled to be awarded at an owners meeting in Chicago on Nov. 30.
Competing in the future
Brown, the son of a football legend, the late Paul Brown, conceded he doesn't like the idea of moving, but said he may not be left with any choice. "It isn't something I relish being involved in," he said. "It isn't anything I walked into without my eyes open, but we have to position ourselves to survive in the future. We're not going to sit idly by and accept a grossly inferior situation, one that risks our very existence as a business."
He said that the free agency era has put the Bengals into an untenable position.
"In the old system we could compete [the Bengals went to two Super Bowls in the 1980s, but are winless this year] because it didn't matter what the money was. It does now," Brown said. "It's going to be harder if not impossible for us to compete."
"We can't stay here . . . "
Brown said he decided to go public after Roxanne Qualls, who was elected mayor Tuesday and takes office Dec. 1, said the city would be willing to build a baseball stadium for the Reds and leave the Bengals in a renovated Riverfront Stadium.
"That was the straw that broke the camel's back," Brown said. "We can't stay here in Riverfront Stadium and operate successfully five, 10 and 15 years into the future. It just won't work."
Former City Manager Gerald Newfarmer said the city has been trying to come to a resolution with Brown. "It takes two to tango," New farmer told The Cincinnati Post on Friday. "The city has been anxious to get that settled. The Bengals are a valuable resource. It's bad enough to have a crummy season and a crummy team, but the Bengals have to be willing to cooperate and dance to the tune. So far they've not, because they've been looking for, well maybe not looking for, but they've been imagining other partners."
Brown said he isn't going to give Cincinnati officials much more time to solve the problem.
"They know they've been sitting around for 15 years," he said. "We've said publicly that they have to reply in a positive and satisfactory way quickly and that no answer is an answer. They know that. The time has come. If they don't make a decision, we'll make one for them."
Cincinnati City Manager John Shirley, on the job for two weeks, told The Cincinnati Post on Friday that he would have an answer for Brown no later than January. "It's probably up to me now to figure out whether there's going to be something that goes forward from the city of Cincinnati to the Bengals," he said.