Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown said yesterday that he's "worried more now than ever" about being able to keep the NFL team in its home of 27 years and probably will visit Baltimore to see what's available.
He'll be following in the footsteps of another team interested in Baltimore: Los Angeles Raiders managing partner Al Davis made a secret visit to the city several weeks ago.
"We now know a new football stadium is not in the cards in Cincinnati. Riverfront Stadium is inadequate to protect our future, and we are going to talk with the people in Baltimore about their interest," Brown said in a written statement.
Cincinnati's business leaders announced this week tentative plans to build a baseball stadium for the Reds near Riverfront Stadium, which the teams now share. The Bengals took exception to the announcement because it did not include plans for them.
Asked yesterday if he planned a visit to Baltimore, Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Yes, I'll probably do that," but declined to specify when he'll come.
"They can size me up, and we can size them up -- that's how these things usually work," Brown said.
"We are worried now more than ever that we won't be able to put the pieces together" in Cincinnati, he said.
Legislation that authorized the construction of Oriole Park also set aside bonding authority and lottery funds for building
vTC football stadium adjacent to the ballpark. The state has offered to lease the stadium to an NFL team virtually rent-free and renovate the Baltimore Colts' old practice facility in Owings Mills. The stadium and facility renovation would cost more than $200 million.
Meanwhile, Davis is pondering three options. The NFL has offered to help develop a privately funded stadium in Los Angeles. Oakland, Calif., is fighting to get him back to the city he jilted in 1982. And Orioles owner Peter Angelos has offered to buy a minority stake in the team and move it to Baltimore.
A committee of NFL owners met in Denver yesterday to discuss the Los Angeles stadium project, to be developed by the owners of Hollywood Park racetrack on property adjacent to the track. One source involved in the project said Davis has not attended meetings on the matter beyond preliminary talks with Hollywood Park several weeks ago.
Davis visited Baltimore last month, touring Oriole Park and having lunch with Angelos at the Centre Club, according to sources familiar with the visit.
The two-day visit, during the first week of May, included discussions of Angelos' Maryland-based investment group buying a 40 percent stake in the team and retaining a right of first refusal in the event the majority owners chose to sell, according to the source. The deal remains under negotiation.
Angelos declined to discuss the talks or visit, but acknowledged having had discussions with Davis going back to last year when Angelos visited Davis in Los Angeles. A spokesman for the Raiders did not respond to a request for information.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag also declined to discuss the inquiries yesterday, saying, "I will adhere to my policy of not discussing who I've talked to in the NFL or what we've talked about."
He has given the Bengals a deadline, believed to be sometime this month, to accept or reject the city's offer. The urgency is necessary because funding for the stadium could be cut from next year's state budget, he said.
He said he also has spoken with other teams interested in Baltimore.
"No one should read anything into the fact that we have talked to people, because we have talked to people for years," Moag said.