City offers Stallions no financial aid Director of finance reminds team of its debt

January 12, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Stallions owner Jim Speros' effort to keep the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup champions in Baltimore took a bad turn yesterday, when the city declined to offer him any financial assistance to help the team stay here.

Speros met for 45 minutes with Bill Brown, the city's director of finance. Instead of offering him any money, Brown reminded Speros of his debt to the city.

Brown said the Stallions owe the city about $800,000, including $450,000 in reimbursable expenses for such costs as police security, maintenance and utilities at Memorial Stadium, along with a $350,000 loan for renovations there.

The city already has filed a lawsuit for more than $140,000 that it says it is owed for security and traffic control at Memorial Stadium in 1994, as well as unpaid utility bills.

"The city's position is that we've rendered assistance for him in the past," Brown said. "It's our intention that everything owed us be paid, and he has agreed to pay us."

Brown added that he urged Speros, should he decide to remain in Baltimore, to revise the preliminary home dates on his 1996 CFL schedule. Speros wants to play exclusively on Sundays next fall, which would conflict with the Cleveland Browns, who are expected to move to Baltimore this year and use Memorial Stadium for two seasons before moving into a new facility in 1998.

Speros said he plans to accommodate the NFL and hopes to meet with the Maryland Stadium Authority -- which will assume control of operations at Memorial Stadium when the Browns arrive -- next week.

"I never looked to get financial help from the city at this meeting. The meeting was more about figuring out ways to co-exist with the Browns and co-existing with the Maryland Stadium Authority," said Speros, who also met briefly with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday.

"The mayor has made every indication that he wants us to stay," Speros said. "That weighs heavily on my mind."

The chances of the Stallions' staying appear slim. Speros, who also owes about $800,000 to stadium vendors, has been turned down in his quest for financial aid from the state. His goal of obtaining 20,000 season ticket commitments during a six-week drive has fallen about 7,000 tickets short. And he is pursuing possible moves to Houston, Richmond, Va., or the Lehigh Valley, Pa., area.

CFL commissioner Larry Smith said yesterday that he must have a firm decision by Speros on the Stallions' immediate future by Jan. 31 for league scheduling purposes.

Speros reiterated that Houston is the clear front-runner, and he has received a 13-page lease proposal from Astrodome officials.

"It's a workable lease," Speros said.

Speros also plans to meet Monday with city officials from Bethlehem, Pa., to talk about possibly having a new facility built for the Stallions in the Lehigh Valley area.

"After I finish my talks with Pennsylvania on Monday, I'll be ready to make my decision on whether I'm leaving or staying," he said. "I'd like to announce my decision by Friday, Jan 19. Whatever happens, by Feb. 1, I'll be up and running in a full capacity, no matter where I'm at."

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