- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has joined the chorus of local politicians demanding answers on the Montreal Expos from Major League Baseball.

One day after D.C. Council member Jack Evans insisted on a relocation commitment from baseball before moving on ballpark financing, Warner echoed the sentiment. Virginia has been requesting a conditional award of the Expos for months before completing site and financing details. But in an interview yesterday on WTOP Radio, Warner said no significant movement will happen with either the site or financing without firm word the Expos are coming to Virginia.

“I think some of the local leaders in particular may not want to take on all of that fight if, at the end of the day, they’re going to come up short in terms of being awarded the franchise,” Warner said.

MLB executives have declined to respond to the substance of such comments. But they continue to press for as much public-sector stadium financing as possible. A recommendation on the future of the MLB-owned Expos could come by the July15 All-Star Game, but many industry insiders believe a move before the 2005 season is all but impossible.

“We have always been pretty committed to the idea of a conditional award,” said Michael Frey, chairman of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority. “It’s certainly not baseball’s preference, but it’s the political reality. You have to remember they haven’t done [a team relocation] in a long time. They’re still learning, I think, that reality.”

Even if Virginia does receive a conditional award of the Expos, pressing issues remain. Most notably, the owner of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority’s preferred stadium site in Pentagon City is openly hostile to the idea of a ballpark on that land. Also, Virginia’s $285million public-sector financing proposal for a stadium is based on part on projected sales tax revenue from concession and merchandise spending at a local ballpark that would be far above MLB averages.

If MLB executives do not move the Expos in time for next season, it is expected they will act on a developing contingency plan to play more games in Puerto Rico. The Expos will play 22 games in San Juan this season.

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