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D.C. expecting announcement on Expos next week

WASHINGTON -- As far as Washington is concerned, the
negotiations with Major League Baseball are essentially done. Now
it's a matter of waiting for a 33-year drought to end.
Months of talks -- including an 11½-hour session last week and
another round that lasted until midnight Wednesday -- have produced
a 30-page document that would conditionally award the Montreal
Expos to the nation's capital.
"I would say that it is virtually completed without any major
deal points outstanding," Bill Hall, chairman of the D.C. Sports
and Entertainment Commission's baseball committee, said Friday.
So what's next?
"As far as I'm concerned," Hall said, "(it) is to hear from
Major League Baseball that we have a deal."
The wait shouldn't be long. The city needs a decision by the end
of next week so that legislation can be introduced to pay for a $13
million renovation of RFK Stadium as well as $440 million package
that would build a new stadium south of the Capitol along the
Anacostia River. The team would play in RFK for three seasons
before moving to the new ballpark.
If the process should start later, stadium financing would be in
danger of not being passed before Dec. 31, when the terms expire
for several City Council members whose votes are needed to pass the
measure.
"We believe that we are in very, very good shape," Mark
Tuohey, the sports commission chairman, told radio station WTOP.
"We are told that an announcement will be next week. We told them
we need an announcement before Oct. 1. Delay is not in the cards."
Washington has been without a major league team since 1971, when
the expansion Senators moved to Texas, but the city has clearly
taken the lead in the competition to land the Expos, who were
bought by the other 29 major league teams before the 2002 season.
Nearby northern Virginia; Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk,
Va.; and Portland, Ore., have also been contenders.
On Thursday, baseball's executive council met in Milwaukee to
discuss relocation. While no formal recommendation was made,
commissioner Bud Selig told the council he would work to finish a
deal as quickly as possible, with the nation's capital the apparent
choice.
Selig's decision, once it comes, must be approved by the owners.
Several potential hurdles remain. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter
Angelos opposes having a team relocate to downtown Washington,
about 40 miles from Baltimore's Camden Yards' ballpark, on the
grounds that it would take away fans and revenue from his
franchise. In addition, the Expos' former limited partners say they
will attempt to block a move in federal court.
Meanwhile, a local minor league team expressed confidence that
the major leagues are coming. The Class A Potomac Cannons of Prince
William County, Va., announced Friday they are joining the Expos'
farm system, ending their affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds.
"With the potentiality of the Montreal Expos moving to our
area, we thought it would be an appropriate time," Cannons owner
Art Silber said.
There also was news regarding another Washington team. D.C.
United of Major League Soccer, which would have to share RFK with
the Expos for at least two seasons, could be getting its own
stadium, across the Anacostia River from the proposed ballpark.
"Clearly we're not as far down the road as we are with
baseball," Hall said. "It's an exciting location. It would be
another public-private partnership. There are certainly a number of
things left to be negotiated."