Memorial to get $2 million face lift

April 02, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

A joint conference committee of the General Assembly yesterday authorized the transfer of $2 million from the Maryland Stadium Authority to the city of Baltimore for the purpose of renovating Memorial Stadium.

The decision to create a grant for improvements to the 41-year-old stadium is subject to approval of the state budget tomorrow.

Delegate Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the conference committee has charged the stadium authority with managing the grant, in consultation with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, City Council, and the Baltimore Football Club, which has been seeking state support.

"The Baltimore CFL team has been extremely successful," Rawlings said yesterday. "It brings back a lot of economic stability to the Memorial Stadium area. I think this is an expression of confidence the General Assembly has in the Mayor and in [team owner] Jim Speros' ability to pull off such a successful year."

Rawlings also said the stadium authority is instructed to submit a report by Dec. 1, 1995, to Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the General Assembly on long-term improvements needed to prepare Memorial Stadium for the 1997 Grey Cup game and for other sports and community events.

"I think it should not be just $2 million to the city, but it should go under an entity the state has some confidence in," said Rawlings. "The stadium authority is responsible for managing how the funds are to be spent. But it needs to be in consultation with the city and the team."

The request for $2 million went to the conference committee yesterday after being included in a version of the budget that was passed by the state Senate, but not in House version.

Speros said he was invigorated by the news. "I feel like I have Memorial Stadium lifted off my shoulders," he said. "This is exactly what we wanted. We've got the best of both worlds. . . . We're able to get the money now, and we've got the Maryland Stadium Authority's expertise."

Speros credited lobbyist John Stierhoff, and team vice presidents Tom Matte and Aric Holsinger in persuading the legislators to help. "And without Mayor Schmoke, this wouldn't have happened," Speros said. "I'm thankful that Gov. Glendening has taken the ball in his hands. A lot of people contributed."

Speros said he plans to address safety factors at the stadium first and ensure that escalators and elevators are made operable. Then he wants to put in a new field with a drainage system, and replace the scoreboard.

LTC In a related Canadian Football League development, Virginia businessman William L. Collins III has reached a tentative agreement to purchase the Las Vegas Posse and move the team to Jackson, Miss.

The deal is expected to be finalized tomorrow, ending a week of frantic negotiations in which commissioner Larry Smith salvaged plans for a North-South divisional alignment. Collins, a communications industry consultant, stepped in when a deal with Cleveland businessman Dane Matthews broke down last week.

Collins led a group of Northern Virginia investors -- including Speros -- who failed in a bid to get a Major League Baseball expansion team last month.

He will pay $1.85 million for the Posse, and pay off the team's creditors. The Posse was $3 million in debt in its first season.

Collins is expected to hire B.C. Lions general manager Eric Tillman -- a native of Jackson -- to run the team, but is not expected to keep Ron Meyer as coach.

The relocation of the Posse to Jackson gives the CFL six American teams and allows the league to operate with U.S. and Canadian divisions, the winners of which will meet in the Grey Cup in November.

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