City to lend $500,000 to CFL Colts

March 19, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Working with time constraints and limited funds, Jim Speros received a boost from city hall this week in his bid to renovate Memorial Stadium for the Baltimore CFL Colts' debut there this summer.

Speros, owner of the Canadian Football League expansion team, has reached an agreement in principle with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for a $500,000 loan in city funds.

The loan will be repaid over the course of Speros' five-year lease at the stadium. Undetermined, however, is the interest rate he'll pay.

Lynette W. Young, chief of staff for Schmoke, said yesterday that details of the loan are still being negotiated, but that it's unlikely it would be interest-free.

"It's an agreement in principal between Speros and the mayor," Young said. "The mayor wants to help him, wants him to be successful . . . We are trying to work together to find a cost-effective way of making these improvements."

Speros said the city's money will go toward field modifications for the longer, wider CFL dimensions, and for painting of the seats. The field alternations have begun, he said.

But it won't cover the cost of improving the stadium's sound system, press box, one locker room (the other already has been upgraded), two training rooms, or painting bathrooms and corridors.

For those items, Speros hopes to get state participation. He said he hopes to meet with Gov. William Donald Schaefer shortly to discuss state funds. Schaefer has not volunteered that participation.

"I've got a number of people who are helping me and are talking to the governor," Speros said. "The city has committed to getting it done."

It leaves $1.5 million to be accounted for. Speros said he has spent more than $100,000 of his money for carpeting and painting the team's office space at the stadium, and for work on the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units. The Colts will play their first home game on June 29 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in an exhibition.

Speros clearly is counting on state money to give Memorial Stadium the face lift it needs to bring the Grey Cup here in 1996.

He will make a bid for the Grey Cup on April 28 at league meetings in Las Vegas. He's hoping to make Baltimore the first U.S. site for the CFL championship game.

"I want to go to the meetings and say we've got a total commitment to the stadium," Speros said.

"I'm looking for the governor to come out to Memorial Stadium, and if he feels it doesn't need any work, I won't ask him for any money."

Speros said it makes sense for Schaefer to put money in the stadium in light of his continued effort to bring the NFL back to Baltimore. Any team relocating here would have to play at the old stadium until a new one is built at Camden Yards.

"If he still thinks he's getting another team, why not improve the stadium now?" Speros said. "Why should I spend all my money to let somebody else come to the stadium?"

Upcoming Colts events include:

* An open tryout at Johns Hopkins University tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m. Registration fee is $25, and CFL T-shirts will be on sale.

* Unveiling of home and away uniforms Friday at The Galleria.

* ColtFest next Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. Several items, including hats and T-shirts, will be raffled off. Free food and beverage will be available. The Colts' Marching Band will perform, and ticket windows will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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