Former Ravens owner Art Modell passes away at 87

September 06, 2012 | WNST Staff

The man who brought NFL football back to Baltimore in 1996 has passed away.

Former Baltimore Ravens owner Arthur B. Modell died Thursday morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to natural causes. He was 87 years old. His sons, John and David, were at his side.

“Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at four this morning,” said Modell’s son David in a statement released by the Ravens. “My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October.”

Having owned the Cleveland Browns since 1961, Modell announced he was moving his franchise to Baltimore on Nov. 6, 1995. The team was given a new name and treated as an expansion franchise as the city of Baltimore enjoyed NFL football in 1996 for the first time since Robert Irsay had moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in March 1984.

A report from Cleveland late Wednesday night said Modell’s vital organs were failing and his sons were at his side in the hospital.

“’Poppy’ was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren,” David Modell said. “Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore. He made an important and indelible contribution to the lives of his children, grandchildren and his entire community. We will miss him.”

Modell remained the majority owner of the Ravens until 2004 when he sold his share of the franchise to current owner Steve Bisciotti.

His crowning achievement in Baltimore was the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory over the New York Giants on Jan. 28, 2001, the city’s first NFL championship since the Colts’ Super Bowl V victory over the Dallas Cowboys in 1971.



4 Comments For This Post

  1. Will Says:

    Thank you Art. A very sad day in Baltimore. An absolute NFL legend, HOF or not. I have grown up with the Ravens, they arrived when I was 6 years old. On Monday night and every home game for now on, I’ll look up at the ring of honor and remember a great great man. He and Pat were extremely generous, their names are on the Lyric opera house. Rest easy Mr. Modell, we will never forget you!

  2. Marcus Halberstram Says:

    Like so many other situations, people only know half the story. Cleveland’s hatred of Modell is misguided. For those who don’t know the whole story, check this out.

    Muny Stadium, which opened in 1931, had been decaying for years. It was in mediocre condition when Modell bought the Browns, and steadily got worse.

    In spite of this, Modell took responsibility for the facility by creating the Stadium Corporation. It wasn’t a bad move at all for Modell. In fact, it was a money maker for him.

    The corporation leased the stadium from the city for one dollar a year. Under the lease terms, the corporation would enjoy revenues from Browns home games, Cleveland Indians home games, and any other events booked into the Stadium. In exchange, it assumed all maintenance costs. These costs climbed each year.

    Then there was Gateway, a brand new baseball park and Gund Arena (whose name STILL sounds like the name of a sexually transmitted disease), all paid for by the taxpayers.

    Through it all, NOTHING was done about the Cleveland Browns and its dilapidated home.

    Through all this, several other NFL teams were getting new stadiums.

    Jacobs Field opened in 1994, and became one of the finest stadiums in baseball. Gund Arena opened soon after.

    Once the Indians moved into their new digs, Modell’s Stadium Corp. was stuck with maintaining the Stadium, but no longer had the revenue stream generated by 80 baseball games.

    Did Modell demand a new stadium for the Browns? No.

    Did Modell even lobby for one? No.

    Instead, he spent millions on studies to how best renovate the old Municipal Stadium, which had opened in 1931. The best of the renovation plans would have cost about $65 million (in 1990 dollars).

    When Modell approached the city and, he got the “Talk to the hand!” treatment. Not a nickel would be forthcoming.

    Because of the family’s prominence in Cleveland and in spite of the fact that their personal wealth was substantial enough to pay for it themselves, the Gunds had little trouble getting the taxpayers to pony up the $155 million with a sin tax on alcohol and tobacco.

    However, they DID pull $14 million out of their pockets to have their name on the joint for the next 20 years, something Modell would never have done.

    Even though it sounded vaguely like a sexually transmitted disease, this hot new basketball arena, paid for by the people of greater Cleveland, would be named Gund Arena.

    After sitting dormant for five years, the 20-year-old Richfield Coliseum was demolished.

    The location is now a meadow.

    In the meantime, Baltimore was ramping up efforts to bring pro football back to the city. Cleveland gave Modell the cold shoulder for five years, and didn’t even begin to discuss improvements to the Stadium until other cities began courting Modell. But it was too little too late. In the meantime, Modell did what any businessman would do under such circumstances. He began to negotiate with Baltimore about moving the team.

    Unlike Cleveland, Baltimore was trying to work out financing to renovate the old Memorial Stadium. Meanwhile, the city of Indianapolis offered the Colts owner a $12,500,000 loan, a $4,000,000 training complex, and the use of the brand new $77.5 million, 57,980-seat Hoosier Dome. And so in the dead of night trucks came in to move the team to Indianapolis.

    Cleveland offered the Browns NOTHING!

    After Modell realized how much revenue he lost from the Indians moving out of Cleveland Stadium, he requested an issue be placed on the ballot to provide $175 million for refurbishing the rapidly decaying stadium. Once again, Cleveland’s power elite rebuffed him.

    So Modell cut a deal with the Maryland Stadium Authority, a legal entity created by the state’s general assembly in 1986. The agency’s original mission was to return NFL football to Baltimore.

    Finally, on November 6, 1995, with a handful of games left, he made the announcement in Baltimore.

    He said “I had no choice.”

    Although Browns fans dismissed this claim as garbage, it was true. He was in dire financial straits. And compared to the feast Baltimore served up, Cleveland was offering Modell nothing.

    Any smart team owner would have done the same thing, but with a slight difference. He would have left FIVE YEARS SOONER!

  3. tiggnutz Says:

    R.I.P Art Baltimore and all who love the Ravens will always be in your eternal debt.

  4. NC Redskins Fan Says:

    Former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke paid for and built the future Fed Ex Field with his own money so why could not Art Modell do the same with HIS Browns instead of stealing them like Irsay stole the Colts? Modell and Irsay are like every owner of sports teams, the taxpayers should pay for their toys, lest they forget the taxpayers already pay to see the games in person via TICKETS.

    The cities of Cleveland and Baltimore share one thing in common; both cities lost their teams through greed and selfishness and these are NOT qualifications for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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