Speros says Stallions may be staying CFL owner seeking ticket sale guarantee

The Browns' Move To Baltimore

November 07, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

When he heard the Cleveland Browns were bringing the NFL back to Baltimore last week, Stallions owner Jim Speros said he would move his Canadian Football League team rather than try to compete with the NFL.

Speros still is leaning that way. But, after receiving phone calls yesterday from Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening asking him to stay, Speros left open the possibility that he might remain in Baltimore.

Speros said he plans to meet with them next week to discuss how that could happen. For one, he said a guarantee of 20,000 ticket sales per game could keep him around.

But for now, Speros said he wanted to concentrate on the Stallions' Southern Division final against San Antonio on Sunday at Memorial Stadium. All signs indicate that will be the final home game in the history of Baltimore's 2-year-old CFL franchise.

"They want to meet and get a strategy together on the Stallions' staying in Memorial Stadium and being part of football tradition in Baltimore," Speros said. "I owe it to the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. I'm not going to do some deal without sitting down with the mayor and the governor. I'm going to listen to these people first."

The Browns are scheduled to use Memorial Stadium -- which has undergone about $1 million in renovation since Speros and the CFL came to town last year -- for the 1996 and 1997 seasons before moving into a new facility at Camden Yards. That would require the Browns and the Stallions to share Memorial Stadium, an unlikely marriage.

"I asked him [Speros] not to decide right away," Schmoke said. "He said he would look at it."

"I have a lot of mixed emotions. If the city and state want to keep me, it's up to them," Speros said. "I'm not saying it can't work. Maybe we could co-exist. The governor and the mayor are going to have to put together 20,000 guaranteed tickets and let me know I'm not going to lose my corporate sponsorships. If I move, it's because the governor and the mayor couldn't make it happen."

Speros signed a five-year lease with the city in 1994. In exchange for making certain renovations and collecting a ticket tax, the Stallions pay rent of $1 a year and keep concessions and parking revenue.

Speros did not sound hopeful about staying in Baltimore. In addition to the financially unhealthy competition that an NFL presence would pose, the Stallions have seen their attendance fade by an average of more than 7,000 this year. At Saturday's first-round playoff victory over Winnipeg, only 21,040 showed up at Memorial Stadium, the smallest crowd in franchise history.

If the Stallions win Sunday, they would advance to the Grey Cup title game for the second consecutive season.

"We could be the first team to win a Grey Cup and be a team without a city," Speros said.

Speros said that by Jan. 1 he wants to decide where the Stallions will play in 1996. He has mentioned Miami, Orlando, Fla., Portland, Ore., Los Angeles and Norfolk, Va.

"At first blush, the right decision is to pack up and move," Speros said. "Why would I want to compete with the NFL? That doesn't seem like a winning proposal. We're clearly going to be the No. 2 football team if we stay in this city. That's something I have to evaluate.

"I don't know if this football team deserves being here. With all the hype that will happen when the Browns come to town, our following will probably dwindle. I don't know if I want to be here when we could go somewhere else and be the only show in town."

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