- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Former Washington Redskins stars Art Monk and Charles Mann are completing a deal to become equity partners in the Virginia Baseball Club, joining franchise icon Darrell Green as the second and third ex-Redskins to enter the push to bring a major league team to the area.

The formal entry of Monk and Mann, long rumored within local baseball circles, is scheduled to happen early next month. They lead a collection of as many as four others that Virginia Baseball head William Collins is seeking to add to his prospective ownership group.

The arrival of Monk and Mann gives Collins, who has been seeking to get a team in Virginia since 1994, another set of prominent public faces and provides his ownership group its first minorities.

“These guys are institutions in the community,” Collins said. “They are well-respected leaders and great businessmen. We’ve done business together before, and now we’re looking to march forward together again.”

Meanwhile, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, which owns land in Pentagon City coveted by the Virginia baseball lobby, wrote Major League Baseball and each team owner on June6 reiterating its objection to its land being discussed as a stadium site.

It is the second such letter sent to MLB outlining the foundation’s strong objection to putting a stadium on its land.

“We have reiterated the unavailability our site to baseball, just so there is no confusion,” said John Barron, the District-based attorney representing the foundation. “We are still proceeding with our development plans, and we simply have no interest in selling this land. I don’t know how we can make that any clearer.”

The foundation, working through several developers, has filed applications with Arlington County to build mixed-use developments on its land, which is located near the intersection of Army-Navy Drive and Eads Street. Barron said the foundation also will vigorously fight any attempts to acquire the land through eminent domain.

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, however, continues to focus much of its efforts on the parcel and has distributed drawings of a proposed stadium sitting on the site.

Authority executive director Gabe Paul, as he has for weeks, declined to comment on the Cafritz land situation, saying only, “We are confident we will be able to negotiate a deal with any landowner.” Collins, also repeating earlier comments, derisively referred to the proposed Cafritz development as “sterile high-rise buildings.”

Collins yesterday declined to name his other prospective partners in the Virginia Baseball Club, though local technology executive William Dean is another incoming investor. Current partners include former Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros, Washington Speakers Bureau founders Bernie Swain and Harry Rhoads Jr., and Wachovia Bank. The incoming members are having their financial backgrounds reviewed by the stadium authority.

Once that process is completed, Monk and Mann will determine their intended level of financial investment in Collins’ group, with a decision preferably in place before the All-Star Game on July15.

The two are entering Virginia Baseball as a joint entity under the name Monk & Mann Ventures LLC, the Tysons Corner-based business the pair shares. Collins and his original partners are selling equity in the partnership for $3 million for each 3 percent unit, and they may sell up to eight such units.

“We’ve always supported baseball coming back to this area,” Monk said. “This could be a tremendous benefit to the area, both in terms of economics and its impact on the community. So what we’re doing now is working through all our due diligence and determining to what level we want to be involved.”

Said Mann, “Bill came to us a few weeks back, we started talking, and what is in front of us now is a very exciting opportunity. For any former pro athlete, the chance to join the ownership ranks is absolutely huge.

“Part of this for me, admittedly, is RFK [Stadium]. If we get a team, we’ll be there for at least three seasons, and part of my fond memories is looking up every game there and seeing all the dignitaries Mr. [Jack Kent] Cooke had in the owners’ box. For me to be that guy in the owners’ box, that would be incredible.”

Green, the other Redskin involved in the local baseball effort, is a limited partner of the rival Washington Baseball Club, chaired by District financier Fred Malek.

Monk & Mann Ventures’ current business focus is credit card management, and the company is a regional director for Axia Merchant Services, a California-based company that processes credit card and debit transactions.

The entry of Monk and Mann comes just days before a three-member contingent of MLB’s relocation committee comes tomorrow to interview leaders of baseball efforts in both the District and Northern Virginia.

MLB executives have said they intend to make a relocation decision on the Montreal Expos by the July15 All-Star Game, but a growing number of industry insiders believe baseball will return the Expos to Puerto Rico for at least part of their 2004 home schedule.

Collins, however, said he is confident that not only will baseball stick to its intended relocation timetable, but that it also will select Northern Virginia as the Expos’ new home. Naturally a confident man, Collins has been even more upbeat in recent weeks.

“We believe our time is about to come,” Collins said.

That confidence, however, exists as Virginia’s baseball effort wrestles with the troublesome site situation.

On top of the Cafritz objections, the commonwealth’s two other proposed stadium sites in Arlington County remain under intense opposition from both the landowners involved and the No Arlington Stadium Coalition. The stadium authority last week entered into formal negotiations with a conflict resolution specialist to help broker some peace in the debate.

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