- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

While Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson's interest in major league baseball in Washington has cooled, an out-of-town bidder is moving ahead with plans to form an ownership group to purchase the Montreal Expos and move them to the Washington area.
Long Island real estate developer Mark Broxmeyer yesterday told The Washington Times that he will meet next week in Florida with potential investors for the ownership group he is putting together to buy the Expos. The Expos currently are owned and operated by the 29 other club owners in Major League Baseball.
"We are moving forward with our plans," said Broxmeyer, who said he will meet on March 22 in Florida with potential investors. Former presidential candidate Steve Forbes reportedly might be in that investors group, but Broxmeyer declined to discuss who else might join him in the bid.
However, Broxmeyer said his group likely will include some Washington-area investors. "We are in discussions with some people," he said. Broxmeyer declined to identify the investors.
Last night, District officials held the second of two public sessions this week this one at Reeves Municipal Center in Northwest to seek input from residents on the city's proposed $275million financing package for a new ballpark. Earlier in the day, Major League Baseball president Robert DuPuy stressed the need to have such a package in place, saying he would like to see stadium legislation passed by any community seeking a team by "yesterday."
Baseball's relocation committee will meet in Phoenix next Thursday and Friday with government officials from the three jurisdictions the District, Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore. competing to be the new home of the Expos. Each delegation will present stadium financing proposals.
DuPuy also said the relocation committee still intends to pick a new home for the Expos by the All-Star Game in July. Commissioner Bud Selig had backed off that timetable in January, saying a decision and a move in time for the 2004 season were not guaranteed.
"The meetings in Phoenix will dictate our future, short-term schedule on this," DuPuy said. "But there's no question, the sooner stadium financing is fully realized, the better off we'll all be. The goal remains for us to make a final decision as rapidly as possible, most preferably by the All-Star Game."
Broxmeyer said he is considering both the District and Northern Virginia. "I think baseball would do well in either Washington or Northern Virginia," he said. "I am interested in both locations."
Broxmeyer has the financial wherewithal to buy the Expos; he is the founder and owner of Fairfield Properties, which owns more than 5,000 residential units in the New York area. He is politically connected as well, counting among his associates former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Forbes.
Johnson, a partner with Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder in the effort to buy a baseball team, declared on Wednesday that he was reluctant to remain involved because of the financing for a proposed District ballpark and the franchise costs.
That leaves the Washington Baseball Club, led by financier Fred Malek, as the lone viable group in the District. The Washington Baseball Club has an exclusivity agreement with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission for the use of RFK Stadium for baseball, but it is widely believed that baseball officials will decide who owns the Expos, no matter what agreements are in place.
The District is developing a public-financing package worth as much as $275million that seeks to reap funds from a ballpark-related sales tax, income taxes on player salaries and a return of the gross-receipts tax on large businesses. That gross-receipts tax was used to pay for the MCI Center infrastructure. Both the ballplayer income tax and gross-receipts tax would require new legislation from the D.C. City Council. The former is particularly risky because it would require amending the city's Home Rule charter to allow taxation of non-resident incomes. A congressional committee that can overturn City Council regulation is not opposed to such a jock tax, but does not want it to become a back door to a larger commuter tax the council also seeks.
District officials have said they intend to introduce a bill on the gross-receipts tax as soon as early next month, though that schedule could change based on the results of the Phoenix meetings. City officials aim to reap between $9million and $11million annually from the gross-receipts tax, known previously as the arena tax, and between $20million and $27million total per year to fund a stadium bond.
Some of the discussion at last night's public hearing centered around the proposed New York Avenue site. One resident in that neighborhood, Linda Wallace, was concerned about the parking problems and traffic the ballpark would create.
"What will be done to protect the rights of citizens in those neighborhoods," she said.
But another resident, Erin Flanigan, said she would welcome a ballpark in the New York Avenue area.
"I want people to come to my neighbrohood," she said. "I don't want people to [avoid] my neighborhood."

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