Speros gives up on help from state

April 17, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Thwarted in his bid to secure state money for the renovation of 40-year-old Memorial Stadium, Jim Speros said yesterday that he is not waiting on Gov. William Donald Schaefer any longer.

"I will use my own personal funds to get it done," said Speros, owner of the Baltimore CFL Colts. "I'm not counting on the governor to get it done. He thinks I'm going to fail."

Speros' expansion team in the Canadian Football League is scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Memorial Stadium on June 29. By then, he hopes to have completed a projected $2 million renovation that calls for a fresh coat of paint throughout the stadium, refurbishing of the sound system and scoreboard, and upgrading of the press box.

He had been seeking $1 million in state funds to help with the face lift.

Speros now says he will borrow the money and repay it with revenue generated by promoting other football games at Memorial Stadium.

In that scenario, he has plans to bring an NFL exhibition game to the stadium in August 1995, and a college bowl game in December 1995. He also is making a bid to bring the 1996 Grey Cup to the stadium as well.

The bowl game is predicated on the NCAA adopting a large playoff format that would culminate in a national championship game New Year's Day.

Speros said he has spoken to officials of the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., about participating in the playoff format. He said he spoke to Penn State coach Joe Paterno and Maryland's Mark Duffner about the idea at a dinner Friday in Bethesda.

And he said he talked with three NFL teams, including the Washington Redskins, about a preseason game here.

"I'm trying to bring football back to Baltimore in every capacity," Speros said. "I don't think an NFL team will be back in Baltimore any time in the near future."

The plan would require a commitment from the local corporate community. Speros will make his pitch for that commitment tomorrow at a luncheon at Martin's West for more than 400 local businessmen.

Don Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said last week that he was encouraging corporate support of the CFL.

"We'd clearly be willing to give them an endorsement within the business community, and [say] that it adds something to the sports scene," Hutchinson said.

Speros has been granted a $500,000 loan by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"The city of Baltimore has been a pleasure to work with," Speros said. "They are living up to everything they said they'd do. I clearly see who's helping me."

Last summer, when his CFL team was in the formative stage, Speros said he would cover renovation costs himself. But when the city and the stadium task force asked him to move into the stadium full time, that changed.

"Things changed when they wanted me in the city 365 days a year," he said. "I was looking at other sites [to put his operations]."

In another CFL development, Speros is expected to announce )) tomorrow that WMAR, Channel 2, will televise the team's first three regular-season games and two others in September, with an option for more. The team also is negotiating with Home Team Sports on a 10-game package.

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