- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 1, 2002

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority will next consider a new working agreement with the William Collins-led ownership group on June13 in Centreville.
After more than four hours of deliberation Thursday night, authority officials remained unprepared to vote on a proposed five-year, $5million extension to Collins' status as the commonwealth's preferred baseball ownership group. Instead, the board agreed to extend the existing pact, originally set to expire yesterday, until a vote is taken.
Still at issue is the financial viability of Collins and his investor group. The group has paid the authority $3.6million in grants and loans since 1997 for the exclusivity, and Collins has been seeking a baseball team longer than any other individual still actively working the issue. And that $3.6million has provided the vast majority of funding for authority operations.
But Metrocall Inc., the Alexandria wireless company Collins chairs, will be making a pre-arranged bankruptcy filing later this month to reorganize more than $750million in long-term debt.
Collins insists his group can still fund the purchase and relocation of a team and contribute significantly toward a new ballpark, a total bill that could exceed $400million. But the authority has hired outside consultant Mitchell Ziets to verify that, and his report is not yet complete. The Metrocall bankruptcy filing, and all the detailed financial disclosures that go with it, could happen before the June13 meeting.
"We hope to have [the Ziets report] by our next meeting," said authority executive director Gabe Paul. "We still don't have all the information we need to make a decision. This is a very involved and detailed process, and we want everything in place."
The delay keeps a window of hope alive for Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and the numerous other potential bidders interested in owning a baseball team in Virginia. But as long as Collins' contract with the authority remains in force, Paul or any other authority official is barred from negotiating a deal with another party.
"For the next two weeks, we're not interested in testing the waters," Paul said.
Collins did not show any displeasure over the delay in approval Thursday night and remains confident the extension will be finalized. But Fred Malek, head of a District-based effort for baseball, expressed concern for Collins and his investors.
"I think it's terribly unfair to keep Bill Collins hanging on like that," Malek said. "He's been at this a very long time. Where would the authority be without Bill Collins?"

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