Speros doesn't think Angelos can bring Buccaneers to Baltimore

January 07, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Count Jim Speros among the nonbelievers when it comes to Peter Angelos' pursuit of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Speros, owner of Baltimore's Canadian Football League franchise, says he considers Angelos' bid to bring the Bucs to Baltimore more a distraction than a threat to his team.

"I think he could buy the Tampa Bay Bucs, but I don't think he will be able to move them," Speros said.

Angelos, who owns the Orioles, is expected to make his formal pitch for the Bucs very soon. That pitch might have profound implications for Speros' Baltimore Football Club.

If Angelos' offer is not accepted by Tampa trustees selling the Bucs, the CFL team would remain the only professional football club in Baltimore.

But if Angelos is able to purchase the Bucs and relocate them here, Speros conceded that he would have to reconsider his team's future in Maryland, a future that would not seem very bright.

"I would have to take a serious look at existing here with an NFL team," he said. "That doesn't mean I'd pack my bags. But I'd have to see if I could make it financially with our league. I would not go into an NFL city today. That would make our existence very, very difficult."

Speros said he was committed to playing the 1995 CFL season in Baltimore even if Angelos succeeded in getting the Bucs immediately.

Speros is so sure that no NFL team will turn up in Baltimore this fall that he is offering to refund fully corporate sponsorship monies if a team does arrive. "That's my confidence level," he said.

Speros bases his confidence on the NFL's anti-Baltimore stance and the notion that Angelos may be too much of a maverick for NFL owners.

"If the NFL wanted a team here, it would have put one here last year," Speros said.

As for Angelos, he said: "The NFL doesn't want to go back to court. The owners are scared of Angelos. They know he will take them to court. They can't let him buy the team. They won't let it get that far."

Meanwhile, Speros said he has talked with the Maryland Stadium Authority about changing a clause in his Memorial Stadium lease over scheduling rights. No other event can be held at the stadium 48 hours before his CFL team plays a game.

But in return for waiving the clause, Speros said he wants new state funding to renovate the stadium.

"We've agreed to work with them," Speros said of the stadium authority. "I'm proposing we get some additional help from the state. The $100,000 grant is ridiculous. We need millions to get this place up to scale. I want the state to make a permanent investment in the stadium."

Speros is due to get $500,000 in state money -- $400,000 in a low-interest loan and $100,000 in a grant. That money comes through the Department of Economic and Employment Development.

Mark Wasserman, secretary of DEED, said he was unaware Speros was seeking more money.

"The governor [William Donald Schaefer] indicated to me he would absolutely like to see follow-through on the $500,000 commitment," Wasserman said.

"The stadium authority and DEED are trying to be prudent and practical on the contingency an NFL franchise might want to use Memorial Stadium."

Speros said he would need between $3 million and $5 million to upgrade Memorial Stadium.

Even though Angelos has said he wants to play NFL games at Oriole Park until a football stadium is built in Camden Yards, Bruce Hoffman said the stadium authority is looking at Memorial Stadium, too.

"If for some reason we couldn't play at Oriole Park -- whether it costs too much to convert or wouldn't fit -- Memorial Stadium would be an option," said Hoffman, executive director of the authority.

Hoffman said the authority has budgeted between $500,000 and $1 million to pay for improvements to Memorial Stadium.

"To be there two seasons, there's a question whether we could do $3 million to $5 million," he said. "I know we couldn't. But we would put money in."

Speros wants to replace his bluegrass field with Bermuda grass, install a drainage system and add a new scoreboard.

Hoffman said the authority would want to add more seats -- raising capacity from 54,000 to 65,000 -- and possibly lower the playing field to improve sight lines.

Speros also said he will explore the possibility of moving the team to the Colts' former training complex in Owings Mills. He said he would keep his ticket office at the stadium.

"We have the worst practice field in the CFL," Speros said of Kirk Field. "We're at a competitive disadvantage."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said through spokesman Clint Coleman that he hadn't spoken to Speros about the Owings Mills complex. But Coleman indicated that it presented a problem because the training facility is to be the city's contribution to an NFL team.

Schmoke said he would have to discuss the situation with Angelos as well as Speros.

NOTES: The Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats received enough season-ticket and corporate support to ensure that they'll remain in place for the 1995 season. And a Birmingham (Ala.) group that reportedly includes former Oakland Raiders quarterback Kenny Stabler and singer Jimmy Buffett is trying to acquire the Las Vegas Posse. . . . That leaves Ottawa as the CFL's most troublesome franchise. CFL commissioner Larry Smith said Ottawa must sell more than 15,000 season tickets and get $1 million in corporate support or the Rough Riders' 119-year-old franchise will be revoked.

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