Stallions chief says he won't budge State accuses Speros of using Memorial lease to keep out NFL team

One last try for settlement

City, team owner at odds over who owes whom money

March 01, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

Despite lawsuits, ultimatums from politicians and threats of eviction, Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros refused yesterday to move his team out of Memorial Stadium and asked state officials for more than $1 million he claims belongs to him.

Constables taped a "failure to pay rent" notice on Mr. Speros' corporate office door at the stadium yesterday, and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke offered to drop several lawsuits the city has pending against the Stallions owner if he would "simply vacate the premises." But he turned down the mayor's offer.

Mr. Speros met with Mr. Schmoke for about an hour and later met with Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag without resolving anything.

After telling reporters that "my heart is in Baltimore," Mr. Speros got a cool reception from stadium authority officials. They wouldn't give him any money and accused him of using his stadium lease to keep out Baltimore's new NFL team.

"Jim Speros wanted a bailout from the state of Maryland, but we told him we couldn't legally give it to him," Mr. Moag said. "He seems to think we'll be under enormous pressure to get him out of the stadium so the new team can come in. But we're not."

Although Mr. Speros is moving his championship Canadian Football League team to Montreal, he still is using the corporate offices at Memorial Stadium, which represents a problem because Art Modell's new NFL team wants to move in.

Mr. Speros said yesterday that his lease on the stadium "is still intact" and doesn't expire until the end of 1998.

Instead, he asked the state to give him roughly $800,000 in state funds that were to go toward improvements to Memorial Stadium, arguing that "somehow, it was his money," said Mr. Moag. Mr. Speros also requested to be reimbursed for roughly $1 million he said he spent renovating the stadium.

"Basically, it was a plea," Mr. Moag said. "Neither request made any sense.

"The guy is obviously in some serious financial trouble."

The stadium authority denied both requests, with Mr. Moag vowing, "We'll see Mr. Speros in court very soon."

$73,000 in back rent sought

City officials ordered Mr. Speros to appear in Rent Court on Tuesday, claiming that he owes $73,000 in back rent on the stadium.

Mr. Speros said nothing as he left the meeting at Mr. Moag's downtown office, where city constables waited for him in the lobby and served him with numerous summonses ordering him to court for alleged nonpayment. City officials claimed yesterday that Mr. Speros owes them more than $1 million for a loan and for security and traffic control services during Stallions games.

Mr. Speros said that he didn't think he owed as much money as the city claimed.

"The recordkeeping on the two ends has been a bit different," he said.

If Mr. Speros is found liable in Rent Court for the rent the city claims it is owed, the city could request an eviction notice that would allow the city to remove the Stallions' property from the stadium and literally dump it in the street.

Mr. Schmoke planned another meeting -- what he called "one last attempt to reach a settlement" -- with Mr. Speros today.

'Don't want any bitterness'

"We're trying to resolve all these issues. We certainly don't want any bitterness while a transition is under way," the mayor said.

Mr. Speros' lease on Memorial Stadium stipulates that he has exclusive right to the field on Sundays. If the lease stays in effect, he could preclude the NFL team -- which intends to play in Memorial Stadium in the fall -- from taking the field on Sundays.

For now, the NFL team is making plans to practice at an Owings Mills complex. Team officials said they are anxious to get up and running in preparation for next season.

Mr. Speros said he is not trying to derail the city's plans for a new team, and he insisted that he will make good on any debts he owes.

"We're not trying to limp out of town, and we're not trying to take off and not pay our bills," said Mr. Speros, a Potomac native. "When this is all said and done, I'm hoping we can all hold our heads up high."

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