Stallions look set to move to Houston Speros will decide today

Baltimore's hopes seen as slim

Ticket drive falls short

Owner says 'I want to be in Houston'

January 17, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Stallions owner Jim Speros will announce today whether the Grey Cup champions will remain in Baltimore, but all signs are pointing to the team's imminent departure for Houston.

Speros, who also has been considering moves to Richmond, Va., and the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) area while conducting a season-ticket drive to keep the Stallions in Baltimore, told a Houston television station yesterday that he intends to move the team there.

The season-ticket drive produced 12,478 commitments of $100, nearly 7,500 short of Speros' goal of 20,000. And after failing to secure any financial assistance from the city or state in his quest to keep the Stallions in Baltimore -- where they would likely be competing with the National Football League next season -- Speros met with officials from the Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday. He would not comment on the meeting.

"I've finalized my negotiations with Baltimore, and it looks like relocation is a reality," Speros told KRIV-TV in Houston. "The only thing keeping us apart is finalizing the lease. I want to be in Houston."

Speros also told KRIV that the proposed Astrodome lease would run for at least five years, and that he intends to get local ownership involved in the Stallions. Baltimore native David Sapperstein, the president of Metro Networks, heads a group of Houston businessmen who are interested in the team.

Speros first visited Houston two months ago, shortly after the Cleveland Browns announced plans to move to Baltimore and shortly before the Stallions became the first American team ever to win the Canadian Football League championship.

After the Browns' announcement, Speros expressed concern about the loss of corporate sponsorship, and asked fans to show their support with season-ticket commitments. The Special Teamers, the team's boosters group, launched the drive Dec. 1.

He visited Richmond Stadium last month, where he suggested the city look into adding 10,000 seats to its current capacity of 22,000.

Richmond city officials have proposed that the Stallions use the stadium as is for a year, before deciding whether to expand it.

On Monday, Speros met with Le high Valley officials in Allentown, Pa., where they discussed the possibility of having a privately funded stadium built for the CFL team.

"He [Speros] made a favorable impression," said Northampton County Executive Bill Brackbill. "It's exciting, and it's gotten a favorable response from the media up here, but it's a real long shot for this area."

After his meeting with the Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday, Speros hinted strongly that keeping the Stallions here also looked like a long shot.

"There are three firm proposals [from other cities] on the table. The season-ticket drive was unsuccessful, and there has been no behind-the-door deal to convince me there is a reason to want to be here," Speros said.

"I don't see anything magical happening in Baltimore. I've done everything I said I would do to try to keep this team in town."

Speros, who owes about $800,000 apiece to the city and to stadium vendors, said he has no intentions of selling the team.

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