Speros sees 'opportunity' in Montreal Deal to move Stallions could come next week

January 26, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros appears to be closing in on a deal that would move the Grey Cup champions to Montreal.

After spending a day in Montreal with Canadian Football League commissioner Larry Smith, Olympic Stadium officials and some potential investors, Speros said at a news conference yesterday that a move north of the border could be announced at next Friday's Board of Governors meetings in Edmonton, Alberta.

"Montreal offers a tremendous opportunity," Speros told members of the Canadian media. "In my opinion, this is the best opportunity for the league, and this will make the eight other Canadian members of the CFL very happy.

"I don't see any major stumbling blocks to why we shouldn't complete a deal here. Right now, it's just a matter of crossing the T's and dotting the I's."

Speros appeared close to signing a lease with Astrodome president Drayton McLane Jr. to move the Stallions to Houston. But Speros said he is hesitant to commit to Houston, since the NFL Oilers -- who are bound for Nashville, Tenn. -- might be forced to play in the Astrodome in 1996. The Oilers are trying to get out of their Astrodome lease and play in Memphis for two years before moving to their new home.

"The Houston deal is an excellent deal. I'm convinced it's an excellent market, but I could find myself in the same situation in Houston as in Baltimore," Speros said. "If the Oilers had announced they were out of there, I'd be in Houston already."

Then again, if the CFL decides to end its American expansion efforts, Montreal would be Speros' only choice. The league is considering bringing the Stallions to Montreal and dispersing the four remaining American teams -- Memphis, Birmingham, Shreveport and San Antonio.

Smith, the CFL commissioner, played for the Montreal Alouettes before the team folded in 1987 and has made no secret about his desire to bring a team back to the city. He has worked for two months to assemble an investment group -- which includes singer Michael Bolton -- and Smith said yesterday that he is determined to bring in local investors to assist Speros.

"Jim's group has strong ownership and wants to get involved locally," Smith said. "It has a great football team, a Grey Cup champion, and a great management team."

Speros also said that, as soon as a final decision is made as to the Stallions' fate, he would begin returning $100 deposits to the approximately 12,500 people who responded to a season-ticket drive that began after Baltimore became the first American team to capture the Grey Cup. Speros said he needed 20,000 commitments to stay in Baltimore.

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