Speros to lobby for funds

January 20, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Unsuccessful in his bid to solicit state funds from Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration for the renovation of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore Canadian Football League owner Jim Speros will try anew with Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Speros said he has hired lobbyists to encourage legislation on two financial fronts that would enhance the operation of his football team.

Attorneys John Stierhoff and Jerry Evans, from the Annapolis firm of Dukes, Evans, Rozner, Brown and Stierhoff, will seek legislation to provide state funds for the stadium and workmen's compensation for the players.

"My relationship with Governor Schaefer never developed," Speros said. "I have nothing negative to say about him. The governor was hell-bent on the NFL effort and couldn't see past that vision."

Although Schaefer announced last October that he supported a $500,000 state financing package for the renovation project, Speros said he never received any of the money. On Wednesday, Schaefer's second and final term as governor ended.

Now, Speros says he is looking for a long-term commitment from the state to assist in continued improvements to the stadium, which is scheduled to get the Grey Cup in 1997.

Speros said he spent $500,000 of his own money to renovate the stadium for Baltimore's inaugural CFL season in 1994. He also received a $500,000 loan from the city. Much of that money was spent on cosmetic improvements, including painting the stadium and refurbishing sky boxes and club seats.

For 1995, Speros wants to install a new grass field with a drainage system, add a scoreboard and upgrade the sound system. He also wants to fix escalators and elevators in the stadium that were not operational last season.

Speros said it would take "in excess of $5 million" to make the desired improvements.

Stierhoff said he was "looking at a lot of different alternatives" to get state financing.

"We hope to tell the story and create goodwill between the organization and the administration and the General Assembly," he said.

Speros said he cannot continue to pay all renovation costs.

"All the money that's been spent on the stadium has been done by me," he said. "I do not have an unlimited account to renovate Memorial Stadium on an on-going basis. . . . The state has not responded with help in any fashion."

Mark L. Wasserman, secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development -- from which Speros' money was to come -- was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Speros said he would like to see a portion of the money he pays in state amusement tax be set aside for stadium improvements. He said he has paid more than $500,000 through the 10 percent tax on 11 home games.

He said he also pays approximately $50,000 a date in game-day operations -- expenses that include stadium rent, police security, parking attendants, ushers and field maintenance.

"I want enough money to operate the stadium the next five years," Speros said. "This money doesn't have to touch my pocket.

"My biggest complaint is I'm giving money to the state and not getting anything back."

Because Speros was unable to get workmen's compensation coverage for his players last season, he said he paid $300,000 for insurance.

"The players were not properly insured," he said. "They were not covered on the field. I had to self-insure the players."

Maryland dropped workmen's compensation for pro football +V players after a 1984 lawsuit that involved the Baltimore Colts. It is available to the Orioles, the Spirit soccer team, the Washington Capitals and the Washington Bullets.

Speros said he hopes to get legislation for workmen's compensation this session.

"All I want is to be treated fairly," he said. "I will not be jerked around. If Baltimore wants a football team, the state of Maryland will have to step up."

Speros said there was not an implied threat to move his CFL team in that statement.

"At this point in time, no, there isn't [a threat]," he said. "I'm the only game in town. Most likely, I'll be the only game in town for a long time to come.

"We need a fair shake when it comes to state funding. I will not come up short. As [Peter] Angelos was hell-bent on [buying] the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I am hell-bent to get state funding. I will not be beaten."

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