SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Baltimore Stallions might have visited Independence Stadium for the final time last night.
That's because the Shreveport Pirates, stung by a major drop in attendance and ticket revenue, are thinking about moving.
Club president Lonie Glieberman, the son of owner Bernie Glieberman, told the Shreveport Times yesterday that the Pirates expect to lose $2.5 million this season, a year after the team suffered a $3.5 million loss in its first season. Before that, Glieberman lost $8 million over two seasons before selling the Ottawa Rough Riders.
"If we know we can make it here, we're going to stay here," Glieberman said. "That's our No. 1 objective, but we have to know if we can make it here."
The Pirates, despite adding locally popular quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver and improving on last year's 3-15 record, have faded at the ticket office. They are averaging a league-low 13,841, a 4,000 drop from last year. The team reports a loss of $623,236 in season-ticket revenue. In one year, the team's season-ticket base -- including corporate sponsors -- has dropped from 11,207 to 7,134.
"I don't think we're at the panic stage, but if people choose not to support the team, that would be an indication the city is really not behind them," Shreveport Mayor Bo Williams said. "In that case, we would not be as aggressive in trying to persuade them to stay here."
Since cornerback Karl Anthony went down for the year in the season opener with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Stallions have tried Courtney Griffin, Corris Ervin and the since-departed Gary Wilkerson in his place, all with relative success.
The Stallions believe they have solidified that position with the addition of Doug Craft (6 feet, 195 pounds), who played well in Calgary in 1993 and 1994 and was the last defensive back cut this year by the Indianapolis Colts.
Stallions rush end Elfrid Payton has no trouble getting ready for any opponent, but it's even easier for him against Shreveport, the team that released him 13 months ago.
"It's going to be special going home, or almost home," said
Payton, who is from Gretna, La., a suburb of New Orleans. "I understand the business of the game. But playing against the team that released me, it's always good to mash it in their face."
Payton entered the Shreveport game with 15 sacks, second in the CFL to Memphis end Tim Cofield. He leads the team with four fumble recoveries and has 26 tackles.