Speros vows he'll play in '94, still wants Baltimore for CFL

December 16, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Undeterred by the latest delay in his campaign to return pro football to Baltimore, Jim Speros yesterday reaffirmed his intention of bringing a Canadian Football League team to Maryland.

"I will kick the football off in '94," Speros said. "I will play in the state of Maryland at some facility. But I want to bring a team to Baltimore. It's a much better deal for everybody to bring a team to Baltimore."

Speros said he needs only a lease agreement for Memorial Stadium to be awarded a CFL expansion franchise. But the lease has proved to be his biggest snag.

Until Baltimore's bid for an NFL franchise is resolved, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he will not enter into lease negotiations with Speros. Having failed to land an NFL expansion team, the Maryland Stadium Authority on Tuesday was given 60 days to explore the possibility of getting an existing team to relocate.

The CFL, meanwhile, wanted Speros to produce a lease by mid-January, now a virtual impossibility.

But there are signs the league, in an ambitious expansion mode, is willing to wait on Baltimore. John Tory, chairman of the CFL's board of governors, said the league is eager to field a team in Baltimore.

"We're anxious to have people the caliber of Jim Speros and his group, and a city the caliber of Baltimore, in the league," Tory said. "We'll do everything we can to accommodate the time requirements we're under."

Tory said the league has drawn up two schedules for 1994 -- one with Baltimore and one without. He said no deadline has been set for Baltimore's application.

Schmoke reiterated the city's position yesterday that he will consider Speros' proposal for a five-year lease after exhausting all the NFL options.

"I talked to him on a number of occasions and made clear our primary objective is to get an NFL team here in Baltimore," Schmoke said.

"If it appears we're not going to get the NFL team, then we should at least allow them [Speros and his investors] to try to make a go of it."

Schmoke, a former quarterback, is familiar with the CFL game.

"The game is very exciting," he said. "Those of us who have seen the CFL game know it is an action-packed style of football."

Speros said he has had preliminary talks with the University of Maryland about using Byrd Stadium if he can't get Memorial Stadium.

Another option would be sitting out the 1994 season and beginning play in 1995. Speros has to pay $3 million for a franchise this season, but he would have to pay $6 million in 1995.

What makes a CFL franchise more attractive to Speros is the new television contract the league negotiated with ESPN last week.

Starting in July and ending in late November, ESPN2 will televise a CFL Game of the Week. ESPN will carry the Grey Cup, the league championship game.

The CFL crossed the border for the first time this season, placing a team in Sacramento, Calif.

Las Vegas has been admitted for 1994, and the league is looking at Worcester, Mass., and Orlando, Fla., as possible sites for next season as well.

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