MLB files for mediation against District of Columbia

Updated: January 5, 2006, 2:35 AM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball filed for mediation against the District of Columbia on Wednesday after the city failed to approve a lease for the Washington Nationals' new ballpark by the Dec. 31 deadline.

Washington agreed to the deadline in the 2004 deal between the city and the commissioner's office that allowed the Montreal Expos to be moved to Washington for the 2005 season. The D.C. Council failed to vote on a revised lease last month after Mayor Anthony A. Williams apparently failed to garner enough votes for approval.

"We believe the best way to move the process forward for the benefit of the District's baseball fans is through the mediation process," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

The lease for the ballpark, to be built on the Anacostia waterfront in Southeast Washington, must be approved before the city can issue $535 million in bonds to pay for stadium construction. The commissioner's office, which bought the Expos four years ago, said it won't sell the team until a lease is signed.

Baseball filed its claim with the American Arbitration Association, according to DuPuy. Williams remains hopeful that a deal can be reached.

"We have an agreement, and we think we're within the four corners of the agreement," Williams said.

Although the council approved spending $535 million for construction of the ballpark last year, more recent estimates have put the cost at about $667 million.

Council opponents have balked at the possibility of taxpayers covering cost overruns. Members have also expressed frustration about negotiating with the commissioner's office and not an ownership group.

"The baseball people better wake up or they're going to lose this fight here, if they don't sit down and negotiate in good faith," said Councilman Marion Barry. The former Washington mayor said the dispute can be resolved if baseball makes "meaningful concessions."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press