As he prepares to seek financial help from the city -- after he failed to get any from the state -- Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros is mulling over other options besides moving the team out of Maryland.
On Monday, before he discusses the city's Canadian Football League future with Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Speros plans to meet with officials at the University of Maryland to explore the possibility of the Stallions' playing at Byrd Stadium.
Speros also is considering the idea of selling the team.
"Selling the team is another option I would not rule out. I know it's worth more than what we paid for it," said Speros, who paid a $3 million franchise fee to get into the CFL in February of 1994 and said the team has lost about $3 million during its two years here.
"Anything less than [an offer of] $10 million, I'm not even interested. Right now, I think we're the most valuable team in the league," he added. "We've got the Grey Cup coming to Baltimore in 1997, we've got the Grey Cup in our trophy case and we're the best team in the league. The team might not be worth this much in another year.
"But my first choice is to stay put [in Baltimore]."
Speros met with Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag yesterday to talk about, among other things, the Stallions' sharing Memorial Stadium with the Cleveland Browns, who are scheduled to play there in 1996 and 1997, before moving into a new facility at Camden Yards. Speros' Memorial Stadium lease with the city runs through 1998.
The Stallions own scheduling rights at Memorial Stadium. If the CFL schedule comes out before the NFL's, that could force the Browns to play home games around the Stallions. One complication that could arise from a sharing arrangement is field maintenance. The CFL plays on a field 30 yards longer and 12 yards wider than that of the NFL.
"We should be able to do that [accommodate field changes]," Moag said. "Ultimately, this is going to be his [Speros] decision. He's got a tough week ahead of him in terms of looking at all of the issues. We had a very open, frank and friendly discussion. In many respects, the mayor is much more integral to his situation."
Speros said he plans to ask Schmoke for the city's help paying operating costs at Memorial Stadium amounting to about $400,000 a year. He also wants the city to use its share of the admissions tax from Stallions games to cover game-day costs.
Speros is interested in College Park because he thinks the CFL would appeal to fans in that area. The Baltimore Stars of the old USFL played at Byrd Stadium.
Speros remains interested in moving, possibly to Houston, which he plans to re-visit on or after Dec. 10. Officials from Miami, Orlando (Fla.), Columbus (Ohio), Richmond (Va.), Salt Lake City and Portland also have contacted him.
In the meantime, Speros hopes 20,000 fans show their support for the Stallions by responding to a season-ticket drive that will run from Dec. 1 through Jan. 5. Speros will ask fans to send a $100 deposit that will be placed in an escrow account and refunded if the drive fails.
"In two weeks, I've got to know what the deal is with the city, the state and the Maryland Stadium Authority, and I'll have a look at the season ticket drive," Speros said. "My final decision isn't going to be made until Jan. 5."