Speros bidding to bring Grey Cup to Baltimore

March 08, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Jim Speros has a room with a view at Memorial Stadium. The view is of Baltimore's Canadian Football League future. And an integral part of that future, he hopes, is the 1996 Grey Cup.

Speros, owner of the CFL Colts, spent three days at the league's annual meetings in Sacramento, Calif., last week, where he launched a bid to bring Canada's championship game to the United States for the first time.

"It's history for us and history for Baltimore," Speros said yesterday as he settled into the stadium office of former Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams among unpacked boxes and unhung pictures. "It's a major event. I'm projecting an economic impact for Baltimore of $70 million."

Speros will submit a bid for the 1996 title game at meetings in Las Vegas in late April. His presentation will be delivered July 11 in Hamilton, Ontario -- four days after the Colts make their CFL debut againstthe Toronto Argonauts in SkyDome.

Long before that, though, he'll need to address a more imminent issue: the renovation of Memorial Stadium. Speros said the stadium needs at least $2 million in upgrades, and he's looking for assistance.

"The fact we're making a commitment to get the Grey Cup in '96, I want it to be first class," he said. "I don't want to embarrass myself with a facility that is second class."

Speros said he will meet with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke tomorrow on the subject of city participation in the project. Like Speros, Schmoke is having his own cost analysis prepared for the stadium. Schmoke has said the city will contribute an unspecified amount.

Not so certain is the involvement of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who continues his efforts to lure an NFL team to Baltimore while holding Jack Kent Cooke's Washington Redskins at bay.

"The governor hasn't seen a specific financial request," said Page Boinest, Schaefer's press secretary. "He'd like to see what the city's role is. And he is committed to watching what happens with the NFL. There is no state money in the budget [for Memorial Stadium] right now."

That stance apparently has Speros a little nervous.

"I'm the only pro football team in the state of Maryland," he said. "I've taken all the risk personally. When I came here, it was under the perception I'd be given monies to help our situation here. I'm spending my own money to do some renovations. I can't wait on bids. . . . I'm looking for the city and state to participate in the renovations."

Speros declined to say whether Schaefer had promised any state funds in their private meetings. He did say that Sen. John Pica was preparing a bill to provide some help.

"It's the time frame," Speros said. "I'm caught in a bind. It's four months -- 120 days -- until we kick off.

TH "I will get the job done one way or another. [But] I think the state

should be involved with us to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the stadium."

The Colts, Speros said, will wear a patch commemorating the 40th anniversary of the completion of Memorial Stadium.

In other developments:

* Speros said the team was awaiting a signed contract from former Redskins running back Tim Smith, who has agreed to terms. Smith, who set a Super Bowl record by rushing for 204 yards in the Redskins' 42-10 rout of the Denver Broncos after the 1987 season, hasn't played a regular-season NFL game since 1988. Since then, he's been cut by the San Diego Chargers (1989) and Dallas Cowboys (1990) and was ready to join the New Mexico Rattlesnakes in the Professional Spring Football League in January 1993 before the league folded.

"I'm not expecting anything tremendous out of Tim Smith," Speros said. "It's been five years since he played."

* Speros, appointed to the expansion and TV committees last week, said he expects ultimately to see 12 teams in the United States, including four in 1995. The governors voted to raise the expansion fee from $3 million to $6 million for the next two teams in the league. Those cities most prominently mentioned include Portland, Ore., Memphis, Tenn., Orlando, Fla., San Antonio, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn.

* In order to attract a major television contract in the United States, Speros said the league would explore expansion into NFL territory -- Chicago, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles. "I don't see it as the start of a war," he said. "It's a way to grow our business. We have to enter some major markets."

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