Speros has CFL ready on sidelines Stadium needed to bring team here

November 20, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Having lined up everything except a stadium lease, Jim

Speros said yesterday he is committed to bringing a Canadian Football League team to Maryland.

The question is where. And the choices, he says, are Memorial Stadium in Baltimore or Byrd Stadium in College Park.

"I am past the point of no return," the Northern Virginia businessman said. "I've done all the things the league asked me to do. I've spent three years working on this. I'm too close to quit now. All I need is a stadium. We are committed."

Speros' assessment was punctuated by CFL commissioner Larry Smith's second visit to Baltimore in four months. Smith addressed a group of potential investors in Speros' ownership group yesterday, and said he was sensitive to the city's bid for an NFL team.

"I'm not here to circumvent or undercut the NFL," said Smith, who was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Toronto last night. "We're not going to compete with the NFL. We will create our own opportunity, our own niche. This is a unique opportunity for Baltimore."

Speros expects to get approval from the CFL's nine-member board of governors before the league's Nov. 28 Grey Cup. Approval to play next season will come with a critical contingency, though. That's the stadium lease. And right now, Speros doesn't have one.

"I'd like to have it done between Dec. 15 and Jan. 30," he said.

Speros says he has submitted a proposal to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke that is similar to the lease given the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles' Double-A affiliate, to use Memorial Stadium last summer. Schmoke's response is that the city will not entertain discussions about a CFL team until the NFL renders a decision on its second expansion team, which is expected when owners meet in Chicago on Nov. 30.

"We're not asking the city to take a chance on us," said Speros, who would take his team to Memphis if Baltimore is awarded an NFL expansion franchise. "We will take all the risks. We want to operate the stadium. We're not asking exclusivity on the stadium, either. All we want to do is play 10 games there."

Speros said he has had preliminary discussions with the University of Maryland about playing at Byrd Stadium. "That's my second choice, if I can't work something out here," he said. "If Baltimore doesn't get the team, I'm going to come to Maryland. I'm going to be here."

Speros said he has lined up corporate sponsors for 27 luxury boxes and has been promised support from "more than 100 business people in Baltimore."

A native of Potomac, Speros is co-founder of Champions Development Corp., which oversees Champions sports restaurants.

A former linebacker at Clemson and assistant coach with the Washington Redskins, he spent two years trying to put a World League team in Washington before the league folded.

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