Schmoke asks CFL to put expansion plans on hold

January 15, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke -- saying he believes Baltimore's NFL hopes are still, if only faintly, alive -- has told the Canadian Football League he needs an additional month before he can sign a lease for the league at Memorial Stadium.

A disappointed CFL commissioner Larry Smith, who flew into town hoping to get a deadline of Monday, said after a one-hour meeting with the mayor last night at City Hall that he would have to consider the request. He left open the possibility of delaying play for a year or even moving the franchise to another city.

Under pressure from television networks interested in broadcasting the games and other teams eager to set schedules for the season that begins in July, Smith said he would let the mayor know within a few days whether he could wait until Feb. 15.

"If this is the process that I have to go through for Baltimore I can respect that. On the other hand, I have to consider a number of factors," Smith said. He said he would be talking in the coming days with league governors, television executives and others.

"I have to be a prudent businessman," he said. The CFL was ready to go into San Antonio last year, but the deal fell through after much delay and the league managed to play the season with a single U.S. team, in Sacramento, Calif.

The league, revered for many years in Canada, but hardly known south of the border, is in the midst of a major U.S. expansion.

Schmoke was careful to say he was not unenthusiastic about the CFL, but he was convinced that the chances of an NFL team declaring an interest in moving to Baltimore were realistic enough to warrant the delay.

"Given the efforts that are being made by the governor and stadium authority, it's not unreasonable to request the 30 days," Schmoke said.

He said the 30-day delay would bring the CFL effort into unison with the deadline Gov. William Donald Schaefer has negotiated with legislative leaders eager to begin talks with Jack Kent Cooke about moving the Redskins to Laurel, about 15 miles outside Baltimore.

"It would probably be in everyone's interest if we had one deadline," Schmoke said.

Prospective CFL club owner James Speros, who has opened an office downtown and wants to call the team the Baltimore Colts, after the NFL team that moved to Indianapolis in 1984, agreed that a disposition of the NFL hunt was important to him.

If the city procures an NFL team, he said, he may have to rethink his plans, he said.

"I don't think we would be embraced, and we would have to make other choices," he said.

He said he would continue laying the groundwork for the team, including adding to the 13,000 season-ticket requests already on the waiting list. The Feb. 15 deadline also coincides with the CFL player draft.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.