Speros to join Virginia bidders


OTTAWA -- Jim Speros, owner of Baltimore's Canadian Football League franchise, will announce today that he has joined a group trying to bring a National League baseball team to Northern Virginia in 1998.

Speros has called a news conference at Memorial Stadium in which he also will address the CFL team's legal battle for the Colts name.

Though he declined yesterday to say what his next legal move was, Speros said he planned to introduce William L. Collins III, chairman and CEO of Virginia Baseball Club Inc., at the news conference to discuss the bid for a baseball team.

Those plans call for the building of a baseball-only stadium in Northern Virginia.

Speros, a native of Potomac, said he will be one of seven general partners in the baseball effort. He said his involvement will not diminish his role with the CFLs or the team's presence in Baltimore.

"Football is my No. 1 priority," he said. "This in no way hinders my ability to run the football team. I have no desire to relinquish any responsibilities I have today.

"I have a five-year lease at Memorial Stadium, and we're building a baseball-only stadium in Northern Virginia. It's not an open door to say we're moving the [football] team. I'm in Baltimore, and I intend to stay in Baltimore. End of discussion."

Speros said his contribution to the baseball team would be in stadium negotiations and to help in getting a team, either through expansion or relocation.

He said he was approached last July about joining the baseball effort.

"The Fairfax [Va.] County Council people asked me to get involved," he said. "They heard what I had done in Baltimore, and knew what I'd done in 12 years in Northern Virginia."

Before getting a CFL expansion team for Baltimore, Speros, 35, worked in restaurant and real estate businesses in Virginia. His primary residence is Great Falls, Va.

Virginia Baseball Club is considering, but not limited to, five sites for its stadium. There are two sites in Loudoun County (both more than 200 acres), two at Dulles Corner (both more than 160 acres) and another at Government Center, a 91-acre site in Fairfax County.

Speros said that studies conducted for the Virginia effort did not go into Maryland. "We used just Northern Virginia," he said.

Speros said he was encouraged to become involved in the baseball effort by John Harrington, Boston Red Sox president and chairman of the expansion committee, and Paul Beeston, president of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.

"I recognize Bill Collins as a doer," Speros said. "Together, the group has been able to put together nearly $100 million in cash. This is a $180 million deal."

Although Major League Baseball plans to expand by two teams in 1998, Speros said he expects four teams to be added because of antitrust considerations.

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