City to celebrate 200th birthday with a Grey Cup first


August 11, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

When the 1997 Grey Cup was formally awarded to Baltimore yesterday, it was more than a consolation prize to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Linking the Canadian Football League's championship game with Baltimore's bicentennial was the perfect marriage.

"We celebrate the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of Baltimore City [in 1997]," Schmoke said during a news conference at Memorial Stadium heralding the first across-the-border rendezvous for the championship game.

"One of the things we want to do is celebrate the tradition of Baltimore football . . . This is Canada's Super Bowl. Having it here is an outstanding contribution to the community. This is a great day for us."

Schmoke estimates the economic impact of having the game in Baltimore at a minimum of $40 million.

That's based on an anticipated attendance of at least 55,000 fans and a week of pre-game festivities.

The city was required to guarantee a pledge of $3.1 million in ticket revenue by Baltimore CFLs owner Jim Speros. In a letter sent to the league, Schmoke made that commitment contingent on a vote of the board of estimates. He said there is no risk for the city in making the guarantee.

"The league is simply looking for one more level of security," he said. "[The guarantee] does not involve putting money into an escrow account or anything."

The awarding of the 1997 Grey Cup came one day after Hamilton, Ontario, got the 1996 game, which coincides with that city's 150th anniversary.

Baltimore was beaten out for the 1996 game when city officials from Hamilton promised a $6 million renovation of Ivor Wynne Stadium that will raise the seating capacity from 29,300 to as much as 46,000 for the Grey Cup.

The renovation will also include the addition of 30 skyboxes.

The league's 12 owners voted unanimously on Monday to award the '96 and '97 games to Hamilton and Baltimore. CFL commissioner Larry Smith, attending yesterday's news conference, said he presented the idea of splitting the games to Speros, who then agreed to go along with it.

"Jim was fighting very hard for the '96 Grey Cup," Smith said. "He didn't go down until the end . . . I asked him to look me in the eye and tell me it didn't make sense. He fought hard, [but] he's a team guy."

Speros said the arrangement in Hamilton removes a trouble spot for the league.

"Without this, Hamilton almost definitely was going to move," he said. "This gives them three years of financial stability. I'm happy for Hamilton.

"Hamilton was always there to support other clubs in the CFL. They were the first one to step up and help Montreal [which ultimately folded]."

Speros said having the Grey Cup in Baltimore will provide U.S. exposure that will help the long-term expansion project.

"For our league to be successful, the Grey Cup needs to be in Baltimore more than anyplace else," he said. "It will be tremendous exposure."

Roger Yachetti, chairman of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, attended the news conference, and talked about the meaning of the Grey Cup.

"It's the icon of Canadian sports," he said. "You can talk about the Stanley Cup, and even the World Series with the Blue Jays. But really, the most venerable sports institution in Canada is the Grey Cup."

Petry sidelined

Defensive back Lester Smith was brought off Baltimore's practice roster to replace punt returner Stan Petry for last night's game against Hamilton.

Petry injured his neck attempting to tackle the Las Vegas Posse's Tim Broady on a 36-yard touchdown pass off a fake field goal Saturday. Petry, placed on the one-week injury list, averaged 8.2 yards on 19 punt returns for the CFLs.

The injury is not believed to be serious, though. CFLs coach Don Matthews said Petry would have played had there been a full week between games.

Fighting Tiger-Cats

Two Hamilton regulars -- wide receiver Lonzell Hill and defensive tackle Jeff Fields -- spent Tuesday in court, then flew to Baltimore to join the team.

Hill and Fields were charged Monday along with defensive end )) Steve Bates and cornerback Gary Wilkerson with aggravated assault for a barroom brawl in Hamilton a week ago. All four players spent Monday night in jail.

Bates suffered a hand injury and Wilkerson a laceration on his leg in the fight. Both were placed on the disabled list. Bates had to post the highest bail, at $2,000. The other three were released on $500 bail.

It'll be "CFL"

Larry Smith said yesterday that the league owners have voted not to change the "CFL" brand name. That doesn't mean, however, that the CFL will always stand for Canadian Football League.

Smith left open the possibility the league could become the Continental Football League after a full complement of American teams are added.

"Our brand is CFL," he said. "The thing you have in a brand name is equity. I don't want to lose 102 years of tradition and history."

He said the league would "jazz up" the CFL logo, which currently features the initials over a maple leaf on a double-bar helmet.

Variations on that theme are being drawn up now, Smith said, to incorporate the league's U.S. partners.

Still nameless

Smith also said he supported Speros' plan to go without a team name for the rest of the season if the CFLs are unable to get the injunction lifted against using Colts.

"I support them on that," Smith said. "I've already talked to Jim about that. He'll go the season without a name, then the fans will make the choice. Everything is being done for the fans. The whole name issue is for the fans."

Speros is still waiting to hear a verdict on his appeal of the injunction. Oral arguments were heard Aug. 3 on the appeal.

"It shows the case is tougher than most people think," Speros said.

"If it was slam shut, they would've told us the next day and we'd get on with life. I think a week from now, we should know something."

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