Bill Stealey, who owns MicroProse, a Baltimore-based international software company, stepped forward yesterday as the owner of Baltimore's new entry in the National Professional Soccer League.
Stealey held a news conference in Hunt Valley with NPSL commissioner Steve Paxos and former Blast coach Kenny Cooper, who worked to put together an ownership group after the Major Soccer League folded last Friday.
Stealey is a former Blast season-ticket holder who also sponsored the former MSL team's two trips to England for international play last season. Stealey, who expects to be joined in ownership by several area businessmen, said he plans to make economic sense out of the investment. The start-up cost is at least $500,000.
"I'm a fan," Stealey said. "I love the game. I have two children who play, and I've been coaching them for 18 years. I even play the game. But I'm not in this to play. I'm in it as a business and I expect it to be economically viable."
Stealey said Cooper, the former Blast president and head coach, would continue in those roles, but that he would also be responsible for "marketing and making sure the club a success. His job is to sell tickets and I intend to help him do it."
Paxos said the Baltimore franchise was given tentative approval by the NPSL board of directors Wednesday night, after the Baltimore group worked out an agreement with Centre Management for playing dates at the Baltimore Arena. The board will give final approval Monday during league meetings in Canton, Ohio, Paxos said.
The NPSL has 11 teams, but that number could increase to as many as 14. Two of the three other applicants reportedly are St. Louis and Cleveland, which also lost MSL teams.
The league plays a 40-game season from November through March, with playoffs in April. The Baltimore team probably will play in the American Division with defending league champion Detroit, Dayton, Harrisburg and Canton. The other teams in the league are Buffalo, Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Rockford. The Baltimore team will open the season here Nov. 7.
Stealey said he will have a meeting with Ed Hale, who owned the Blast when the the MSL ceased operations a week ago, to discuss acquiring the former franchise's name.
"I would love to have the name," Stealey said. "But we have to discuss its economic value and whether it makes sense for us to acquire it. Ed may want to keep the name to use in some other venture later on. If that's the case, as far as I'm concerned, this is Baltimore's team and perhaps we can find some way to allow the fans to help us pick a name."
Tickets will go on sale Monday and can be ordered by calling (410) 625-2320.
"We've got 12,000 seats available," said Drew Forrester, who will be vice president of soccer affairs, the same position he held with the Blast. "Every effort will be made to allow former Blast season-ticket holders who want to renew with the new franchise to keep their same seats if they want them."
1991-92 NPSL standings
....... W ... L ... Pct. ... GB
Canton.... 24...16 ... .600 ... --
Harrisburg 24...16 ... .600 ... --
Detroit... 22...18 ... .550 .... 2
Dayton .....9...31 ... .225 ... 15
........... W ... L ... Pct. ... GB
Chicago....... 30...10 ... .750 ... --
Kansas City... 26...14 ... .650 .... 4
Illinois...... 20...20 ... .500 ....10
Milwaukee..... 18...22 ... .450 ....12
Tulsa ......... 7...33 ... .175 ....23