Ex-Detroit mayor will mediate D.C. stadium dispute

WASHINGTON -- Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer was picked to mediate the deadlock between Major League Baseball and the District of Columbia over a lease for the Washington Nationals' new stadium.

Archer met Tuesday with Mayor Anthony A. Williams, members of the city's Sports and Entertainment Commission and a lawyer representing the Nationals, according to Vince Morris, the mayor's chief spokesman.

"We need to find a way to get the [D.C. Council] to honor the commitment it made to get a stadium built," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "I am guardedly optimistic that we can find a way to get it done."

If no agreement is reached after 15 days of mediation, the dispute would move to binding arbitration.

Morris said Williams expects to come up with a lease agreement the council will approve.

"Our whole expectation is that we can get an agreement that the council will feel good about voting on before we ever get to the point of binding arbitration," Morris said.

Baseball filed for mediation on Jan. 4, after the city failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for approving a ballpark lease. That deadline was in the 2004 deal with the commissioner's office that paved the way for the Montreal Expos to move to Washington before the 2005 season.

The stadium lease must be approved before the city can issue bonds to pay for building the ballpark. Baseball, which bought the Expos in 2001, says it won't pick a new owner for the team until a lease is signed.

"We are embarking upon the mediation process. By terms of the contract, those proceedings are confidential. Other than to say we are moving forward, I won't have any substantive comment," DuPuy said.