Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday

Updated: November 29, 2004, 7:55 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A new ballpark for the soon-to-be Washington Nationals appeared to be headed to approval after the chair of the District of Columbia Council decided not to oppose financing.

The Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday, two weeks after Council Chair Linda W. Cropp removed the proposal from the agenda.

"She's not planning to vote against it," Cropp's spokesman, Mark Johnson said Monday. "She's not going to stop it."

Seven votes are needed for approval, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams said Monday he expected the council to approve the measure. The deal Washington signed with the Montreal Expos calls for a ballpark to be built south of the Capitol along the Anacostia River and estimates land acquisition, construction of a new ballpark and refurbishing RFK Stadium will cost $435 million.

Opponents claim the project will total more than $600 million.

Cropp at first proposed the ballpark be built next to RFK, which would have required the Expos' approval and could have scuttled the proposed move. Cropp, who called off a vote Nov. 9, now wants part of the money to come from private financing.

"Her main thing right now is to make sure we get our private financing as part of it," Johnson said.

Under Cropp's amendment, the District would have until April to search for private financing as an alternative to a business tax and the having the city covering potential cost overruns. Private offers already are being considered, Johnson said.

During a panel discussion Monday hosted by the CATO Institute, ballpark opponents said it is wrong to sell public policy based on anecdotes when research shows ballparks often bring no economic benefits.

"What about the [Tampa Bay] Devil Rays?" said Brad Humphreys, associate professor of recreation, sport and tourism at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "There's not a thing within 10 miles of that stadium."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced the proposed Expos' move on Sept. 29, making the deal contingent on government financing for a new ballpark. Baseball owners, who put off a vote last week, must approve the proposal by Dec. 6. It would be the first move of a major league baseball team since the expansion Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press