- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

Major League Baseball officials have contracted a study to determine what the impact would be on the Baltimore Orioles if a team is moved to the Washington-Northern Virginia area a sore spot with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has vehemently opposed such plans.
The study, confirmed by knowledgable sources who asked not to be identified, is a significant step in the quest to bring major league baseball back.
Neither Commissioner Bud Selig nor other high-ranking baseball officials returned phone calls yesterday. But in an interview with The Washington Times two weeks ago, Selig, a staunch opponent of franchise relocation in the past, acknowledged that baseball may be ready to allow a team to move to help stop the revenue disparity between franchises.
No baseball team has moved since the Washington Senators left after the 1971 season for Arlington, Texas.
"There's no question that if a club can't make it and demonstrates that it's tried to do everything it can, no question it has to move," Selig told the Times.
Baseball may be gearing up to make its case to allow a team to move to the Washington-Northern Virginia area, and perhaps also gearing up for a battle against Angelos. Orioles officials claim that between 20 percent and 25 percent of the 3.6 million fans who attend games at Camden Yards are from the Washington-Northern Virginia area.
Privately, baseball officials fear that Angelos will file a lawsuit against baseball if a team is allowed to move to the Washington-Northern Virginia area, though no one is clear what grounds he would have. He has no veto power over a team moving here, losing the chance to stop an American League franchise from coming when the league offices were closed last year and consolidated under the commissioner's office. Currently, it takes approval of three-quarters of baseball's owners for any franchise, American or National League, to relocate.
The Montreal Expos appear to be in the position that Selig described necessary for relocation. The franchise is reportedly near financial collapse. And many baseball observers in Montreal believe that a dispute between new limited partner Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer, and local owners will soon lead to the relocation of the franchise.
Washington and Northern Virginia are among the leading places suggested for a team to move. Prime competition is Charlotte, N.C., although sports marketing officials there have said the area is several years away from being able to support a major league franchise. Other locations mentioned in the past have included Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., but both cities would be considered long shots at this time.
The prime area for baseball relocation remains the Washington-Northern Virginia area. The area is the seventh-largest media market in the country, and has the highest median household buying income as well.
Two groups are seeking to bring a baseball team here. The one that has been trying since 1995 is Virginia Baseball Inc., led by telecommunications executive William Collins. The Collins group, which wants to bring a franchise to Northern Virginia, was the runner-up to Jerry Colangelo's Arizona Diamondbacks and Vince Naomoli's Tampa Bay Devil Rays in baseball's last expansion in March 1995, and had a deal in place to purchase the Houston Astros later that year, but baseball put the brakes on the deal.
The other group, the Washington Baseball Club, is led by Washington financier Fred Malek, a former minority investor in the Rangers, and is seeking to bring a franchise to the District.
The District and Washington Baseball, in a document released in October 1999, cited a George Washington University survey on the impact a Washington franchise would have on the Orioles. According to the results of the survey, 85 percent of those attending games at Camden Yards from the Washington-metropolitan area said their attendance at Orioles games would not decrease. Also a Washington-area corporate survey indicated that more than 70 percent of those who held season tickets at Camden Yards would not cancel those tickets, and 86 percent would continue their lease of private suites if a franchise was located in Washington.
Virginia officials are in the beginning stages of preparing their own in-depth analysis of the impact on the Orioles if a franchise was located in Northern Virginia.

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