Speros' group confident its pitch will bring team to Northern Va.


Organizers of the effort to bring major-league baseball to Northern Virginia believe they have the market and resources that were lacking in past bids to bring the national pastime to nearby Washington.

But the group, which yesterday added Baltimore CFLs owner Jim Speros as an investor, still faces uncertainty over when and if baseball will expand and the possible opposition from the Orioles.

"We believe we have put together Virginia's best opportunity," said William L. Collins III, chairman of Virginia Baseball Club Inc.

The group is seeking a team through expansion or relocation, Collins said at a Memorial Stadium news conference yesterday. It is one of nine investment groups that submitted proposals to Major League Baseball for an expansion team.

Baseball, which last added two National League teams for the 1992 season, has not said when or if it will expand again. But its expansion committee, headed by Boston Red Sox chairman John Harrington, is exploring the issue.

The committee requested bids from interested communities by Aug. 11. Besides the Northern Virginia bid, it received proposals from Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; Buffalo, N.Y.; St. Petersburg and Orlando, Fla.; Vancouver, British Columbia; Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico.

The Washington area has been home to two major-league teams since 1901. The last one, the Washington Senators, moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1971 and became the Texas Rangers.

Washington was a contender in the last expansion, but dropped out when funding evaporated. Collins said his group of 25 investors has a net worth of $350 million and has pledged $98 million to the effort. Banks have pledged another $100 million in loans, he said.

"This ownership group will be well-funded. This has been an obstacle in past attempts," said Collins, a communications industry consultant and part-owner of minor-league teams in Greensboro, N.C., and Battle Creek, Mich.

The group is exploring five sites in Northern Virginia, all about 60 miles from Baltimore, to build a baseball-only stadium. The facility would be funded by bonds issued by a stadium authority.

The sites could present a conflict with the Orioles.

A franchise locating within 100 miles of an American League team must have approval from that team's owner, said league spokesman Joe Fitzgerald.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is trying to bring an NFL team to Baltimore over the objections of Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, would not say if he would fight such a move.

"Is it something that worries me? The answer is no. I have complete confidence in the support of the Maryland-area fans as well as the fans of the Washington suburbs," Angelos said.

The Orioles sell about 25 percent of their tickets to fans in the Washington-Northern Virginia area.

Speros will be one of seven investors/advisers in a general partnership and will lend his expertise in sports and entertainment management, Collins said.

Speros said the enterprise will not affect his Baltimore CFL team. "It gets me to another sports level I want to be at," said the 35-year-old team owner, whose primary residence is in Northern Virginia.

The other investors are: William Rothe, managing director of Alex. Brown and Sons; Michael K. Deaver, executive vice president of Edelman Public Relations; Tony Coelho, CEO of Wertheim Schroeder investment services; Michael T. Scanlon Jr., associate director of the American Bar Association; and Michael B. Shor, vice president for First Wheat Butcher Singer, an investment firm.

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