It looks like Colts will be camping out at UMBC

April 22, 1994|By John Steadman

More positive things are happening for the Baltimore CFL Colts, a team that has been franchised for only two months. Eighty players are signed, the schedule has been drawn and now they have a place to hold their preseason camp: The University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus.

Team owner Jim Speros said: "It looks like we're going there. The school has spread the red carpet for us. Our coach [Don Matthews] likes it and it's what we are going to do."

Thus the Colts, the first-time CFLers, will be training in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville, unless Speros checks off and ,, changes the play. He says the UMBC site will make it convenient for fans, the media and the organization itself.

There was serious consideration for the team to bivouac at either Goucher College in Towson or Western Maryland College in Westminster, two places the NFL Colts previously trained. They also worked at Towson State University, in Tampa, Fla., and, during their All-America Conference days, at Hershey, Pa., and Sun Valley, Idaho.

"They have two large fields at UMBC, comfortable dormitories, dining rooms and a terrific athletic facility," continued Speros. "Everything we need is in place. The buildings are modern and attractive. I believe it'll be ideal."

No contracts have been signed between the club and the university but that doesn't appear to be a problem. It will be a positive move for UMBC to have the Colts and bring visitors to its campus that otherwise wouldn't be there.

On another matter, Speros, while attending the Grant-A-Wish Foundation benefit last night with his wife at Martin's West, said he now believes Gov. William Donald Schaefer is going to offer "some type" of financial support for helping to refurbish Memorial Stadium. He says he has had contact with Lainy LeBow, an aide to the governor, who told him to outline his stadium work plans in writing.

"I believe Louis Goldstein, the state comptroller, went back to the governor after attending our luncheon last Monday and told him he was impressed," said Speros. "I suspect he informed the governor of his feelings on the matter. I don't know this for sure but it's what I surmise."

How much funding does he expect the state would be able to provide? "I would hope $1 million to go with the $1 million I've committed [which presumably includes the $500,000 city loan granted by Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who has championed the CFL cause]," Spersos said. "That kind of money would allow us to fix up most all of the important areas in the stadium that need attention."

Speros has talked about bringing the Grey Cup, the CFL championship, to Baltimore in 1996. He'll be making formal application next week at a league meeting in Las Vegas and then, after follow-up inquiries and interviews, a decision will be made in July as to where the event will be staged.

Commissioner Larry Smith, who has led the CFL expansion to the United States, offered what was interpreted as an affirmative reaction when asked early this week what chance Baltimore had of winning the bid. He answered by pointing out he had aggressively courted Speros and Baltimore to become a part of the CFL.

Presumably, the commissioner would be elated to see the first Grey Cup in history, to be played outside of Canada, held in Baltimore.

"There's an aura of power about Baltimore that impresses me greatly," he said. "I have to believe it comes from its longtime attachment to pro football. The feeling of having Baltimore in the CFL adds to our distinction. My feeling is the franchise is going to be a spectacular success.

"It's because of Baltimore, in particular, and the three other American expansion cities, Shreveport, La., Las Vegas and Sacramento, that we have had so much action by other groups applying for future franchises in the CFL. Yes, we'll add four more new teams next year."

Speros likes Baltimore's chances, too. And if the state appropriates monies to help with the repair of the stadium it will give him and the commissioner a stronger position when they make their sales pitch for the Grey Cup to be awarded to Baltimore -- which will represent an entirely new football experience.

They'll be able to show not only the city's interest but support by the state, too, if Schaefer backs the CFL effort, which he has refrained from doing up to now. Meantime, inflate the footballs and make ready for training camp, the first for a Baltimore team in more than a decade.

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