D.C. expecting announcement on Expos next week

Originally Published: September 24, 2004
Associated Press

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."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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