Schaefer gives support to Colts

April 27, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer emerged from a 30-minute tour of Memorial Stadium yesterday with an unspecified pledge of support for Jim Speros' Canadian Football League venture here.

Schaefer said he was agreeable to a state loan that would assist stadium renovations undertaken by Speros, owner of the Baltimore CFL Colts, who launch their inaugural season this summer.

Speros is asking for $1.25 million to complete the projected $2.5 million face lift in time for the team's first home exhibition game June 29.

"I know what they need," Schaefer said. "I don't know whether I can meet the full need."

There was no financial commitment yesterday -- only words of praise from the governor after two months of silence.

"I am really impressed with what he's done," Schaefer said after a tour that included lunch in Speros' board room. "I had thought the stadium was in very bad shape. Jim's made a tremendous amount of improvements. He's got a lot of enthusiasm.

"I'm very receptive [to helping]. I'm going to review what the city has put in. Jim has put in a tremendous amount of his own money. . . . I think the state should really try to help if it possibly can."

Schaefer asked Speros for an itemized list of improvements. Once he has had a chance to analyze that information, Schaefer said he would have an answer by the end of next week. Speros says he will personally account for $500,000 in the project.

Included in Speros' list of needs will be scoreboard renovations, a new sound system with nearly 100 monitors scattered throughout corridors, an upgraded press box and electrical and plumbing work.

"He doesn't have much time," Schaefer said. "He's only got two months to get the stadium ready. He's done a remarkable job so far."

Speros, who will take his bid for the 1996 Grey Cup championship game before CFL governors this week in Las Vegas, called it a red-letter day for his two-month-old franchise.

"This is one of my biggest accomplishments," Speros said. "It's a historic day for our franchise because I feel I've got his support. When you think of the city of Baltimore, you think of William Donald Schaefer. That's why it was important for me that I got Governor Schaefer on board. It took me two months to earn his endorsement."

In addition to the potential funds, Schaefer also gave Speros a letter of support for the Grey Cup. Addressed to CFL commissioner Larry Smith, the letter said, in part, "We are very excited about the Canadian Football League's presence here in Maryland and would be honored to host the Grey Cup Championship event."

Speros said Schaefer indicated he would join Speros and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in Toronto on July 11 when he makes his final Grey Cup presentation to the league.

Speros said a Baltimore Grey Cup would be critical to the CFL's expansion plans in the United States.

"The other owners in this league need Baltimore to get this 1996 bid here because of the exposure it's going to get in the U.S. and the television exposure we need for this league to grow," he said.

With or without the Grey Cup, Schaefer wants to ensure that Memorial Stadium is in shape when the Colts make their debut this summer.

Schaefer said he was encouraged to see the city's participation in the renovation project. Schmoke has agreed to a $500,000 loan for Speros, as well as labor involved in fitting the field to the CFL's larger dimensions and patching the parking lot. Cal Bukiema, superintendent in charge of city parks, is directing that effort.

"I think Bukiema in the city has done an excellent job," Schaefer said. "[But] the city crews should help more. This is a city facility. It isn't owned by Mr. Speros. . . . They ought to help him every way they possibly can. That's by manpower. That's by plumbers, people on the field. All those things are being done, and I'm very pleased to see that."

Schaefer said the support he is giving the CFL does not detract from his efforts to bring an NFL team to Baltimore.

"It's not going to diminish our efforts at all," he said. "I think they're separate areas. One, the Canadian Football League is different than the NFL. I think they can carry very heavy fan support out here."

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