When Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Baltimore CFL owner Jim Speros make their play today to bring the 1996 Grey Cup to Memorial Stadium, history will hang in the balance.
If Baltimore is successful, the 84th Grey Cup would be the first to cross the Canadian border into the United States.
Because that unprecedented step would heighten exposure of the Canadian Football League in the United States, Speros said he feels confident league governors will award him the game during meetings in Hamilton, Ontario, today.
Edmonton, Alberta, and Hamilton are the two other finalists in the bidding.
"The notoriety the league would get from having the Grey Cup here would emphasize the expansion of the league," Speros said yesterday before leaving for Hamilton.
"I'd be disappointed if we don't get it. I've put a lot of time and effort into it. I've spent many hours with accountants and the Grey Cup committee. . . . It's something the league could use to attract other cities and say this would truly be a North American league."
Schmoke heads a five-man Baltimore delegation that will get 30 minutes -- starting at noon -- to sell CFL owners on the benefits of a Memorial Stadium Grey Cup.
Foremost among those benefits is a profit of $3.1 million -- in U.S. dollars -- that Speros will guarantee the league.
According to Speros, Vancouver, British Columbia, won the 1994 Grey Cup with a guarantee of $2.4 million, and Saskatchewan got the 1995 game with a guarantee of $2.7 million.
Speros said he will throw in another financial incentive: "If we do more than $5 million in ticket revenues, I'll give 25 percent back to the CFL. If we do $6 million in ticket revenues, that will give them another $250,000."
With additional bleachers, Speros said he would be able to seat 61,000 for the Grey Cup, up from Memorial Stadium's current capacity of 54,600. Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium seats 60,081. Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium held 34,000 for the 1972 Grey Cup.
Awarded a CFL expansion franchise last February, Speros gave Memorial Stadium a $2 million face lift in four months, much of it with private financing. He got a $500,000 loan from the city, and is in the process of acquiring similar renovation money from the state.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer was invited to participate in today's presentation, but will not attend.
Speros said he projects an economic impact of $70 million for a week of festivities leading up to the game, which will be held on the last Sunday in November 1996. That includes the CFL awards banquet on Friday, a 1,000-seat dinner for management and team sponsors on Saturday night, opening ceremonies at the stadium the day before the game, and a Thursday night concert.
On June 30, one day after Baltimore's home exhibition game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Speros gave Reg Low, Winnipeg's president and chairman of the 1996 Grey Cup committee, a tour of Baltimore.
"He was impressed with the crowd at the game," Speros said, "and with the fact we could seat 61,000 for the Grey Cup."