CFL season-ticket requests for Baltimore team hit 4,500

January 08, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Spurned by the NFL after an agonizing expansion process, Baltimore football fans apparently are ready to throw their support behind a CFL team in Memorial Stadium.

James L. Speros, a Potomac native trying to bring a CFL expansion team to Baltimore, said yesterday that he has received approximately 4,500 requests for season tickets since opening phone lines for reservations late Wednesday.

"These people smell the pigskin," Speros said during a news conference at adowntown hotel. "They want football."

Speros, a Virginia businessman, expects to give it to them soon, too. He said he hopes for a decision from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke on a stadium lease in the next 10 days, once the cloud cover lifts in Baltimore's bid for an existing NFL team.

Meanwhile, the groundswell for CFL season tickets could be viewed as a clear message to both the NFL and to city hall.

"It tells not only the mayor, but all public officials that this has become a big issue in the community," Speros said. "People are telling the politicians they want football. If the city officials are listening, it makes the decision easy."

Even before the ticket requests, Schmoke had heard the message. Spokesman Clint Coleman said yesterday that the mayor had received a "good response" from members of the Colts Corral saying they wanted to endorse the CFL team.

Speros said he has pledged a minimum of another 2,500 season tickets to the Colts Corral. Norm Anderson, corresponding secretary of the Corral, said the group's preference still is for an NFL team, but that it would support a CFL entry.

"At this point, we're looking at all our options," Anderson said. "We certainly wouldn't be averse to CFL football. But we're still hoping that the NFL comes here.

"If we don't get an NFL team, I would love to see us fill the stadium, just to show the NFL that Baltimore supports football."

Speros will seek an endorsement from the Memorial Stadium Task Force in a special meeting on Tuesday. That meeting will be with the Baltimore Development Corp., which operates the stadium, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and neighborhood associations around the stadium. He reiterated that he wants to operate the stadium himself, and put only sports events in the facility.

With renovations that would remove the center-field bleachers to accommodate the longer CFL playing field, Speros said Memorial Stadium would seat between 52,000 and 54,000. That would include 25,000 club seats on the mezzanine level, and an undetermined number of sky boxes.

The CFL field is 110 yards long -- there are two 50-yard lines -- with two 20-yard end zones. At 65 yards wide, it also is 11 1/2 yards wider than the NFL field.

Speros said he has budgeted $600,000 to remove the bleachers, resod the field, improve the locker rooms and make the press box functional. He said there are some aspects of the renovation with which the city might assist him.

Speros stressed that the 101-year-old CFL is not like the USFL, which fought to force a merger with the NFL in its brief existence in the mid-1980s.

"We're not a me-too league," he said. "It's a faster, longer, wider game. The athletes' skills are different. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. This is real."

Speros also said:

* That he is not asking for deposits on the ticket reservations, partially so no one will withdraw deposits from the city's existing NFL premium seat funds.

* That he has negotiated the right to bid on bringing the 1996 Grey Cup, Canada's Super Bowl, to Baltimore.

* That the nickname Colts remains a sensitive issue, but that it still is his first choice. He presented pictures of four potential logos, none of them with horseshoes for legal reasons.

* That the team would probably play Thursday and Friday night home games in July and August, and more conventional Saturday and Sunday games during the fall.

* That he hopes to add former Colt general manager Ernie Accorsi as a special consultant, but "until he plays out his job opportunities in the NFL, there is no official agreement" to do so.

TICKETS, ANYONE

Baltimore Football CFL Inc., the corporate name of the group trying to bring a CFL expansion team here next summer, is taking reservations for season tickets at two phone numbers: (410) 321-1983 and (410) 324-8000.

Fans also may send season-ticket requests to the team at P.O. Box 15440, Baltimore, Md., 21220-0440.

All requests are time-stamped and receive a priority number. The postmark will apply to all mailed reservations.

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