- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

District financier Fred Malek, head of an effort to return major league baseball to the city, said yesterday he intends to expand his six-member bid group by as many 12 people.
The change in strategy comes as Malek readies for the start of what he believes finally could be the last baseball season without a team in the Washington area.
Previously, Malek partner and America Online founder Jim Kimsey has described the group which also includes Fannie Mae chairman Franklin Raines, area developer Joe Robert and District attorneys Paul Wolff and Stephen Porter as "straight from central casting," and not in need of any additional personnel or capital. The six members' combined worth is estimated at $2billion.
"We probably don't need the money, that's true. But we want to bring in additional people who can add to the success of the team, reach different parts of the community, and better reflect the diversity of the area," Malek said.
Raines is the only minority in Malek's bid group and added, "We are looking at some very interesting and influential people."
Malek declined to identify any ownership candidates, but the first additions are expected later this spring. The only previous hint Malek has given to adding additional investors was bringing in some members of William Collins' Northern Virginia-based group should MLB elect to place a team in the District. That informal offer has been reciprocated from Collins to Malek should the league opt for the commonwealth.
Washington Baseball Club, the formal name for Malek's group, is now working on the firm assumption that baseball will be in the area by either the 2003 or 2004 season. Weekly meetings are now occuring between the group and the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission to refine financing proposals and study potential sites for a stadium.
Commissioner Bud Selig has not given Malek or anyone locally any assurances that a team is coming, despite recently saying relocation will happen in the major leagues and that Washington is "the prime candidate" for a team. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, long an opponent to baseball in Washington, has not been mollified to any degree. But given the large number of teams economically struggling, Malek and his partners believe Washington's inclusion as a partial solution to the game's fiscal woes is inevitable.
"There is a sequence at work here. They want to address contraction first and reach a new labor deal with the players, and only after that deal with relocation," Malek said. "We're at least several months away from that, and that sequence, I think, is prudent. We all want to know what the [economic] landscape is going to be."
In other Washington baseball news:
Malek publicly confirmed for the first time that his group attempted to purchase the Montreal Expos in January with the condition of a move to Washington in 2003. As previously reported in The Washington Times, Malek and Collins made separate, unsolicited bids for the team, and were quickly rebuffed by Major League Baseball officials. MLB now owns the Expos and still intends to eliminate the franchise after this season.
Even if serious economic reform comes to baseball, Malek said a significant profit from a Washington team is not likely. "It's a challenge. I cannot tell you with absolute clarity that this going to be a profitable investment for us," he said. "But we are not driven by money. Our interest is a civic mission."
Playing at RFK Stadium while a new stadium is built would optimally require at least $20million in upgrades and six months of preparatory work, Malek said. Both figures are much higher than any previous estimate made public but could be reduced if MLB gave less notice before a team moved here, he said.
Malek's group is studying potential sites around the city for a baseball-only stadium. Until recently, Mount Vernon Square long had been the preferred site, but Malek spoke at length about the potential of using land adjacent to RFK Stadium. Since Malek and the Sports & Entertainment Commission, operators of RFK, are already working together to land a team, playing there likely presents the fewest obstacles. Any firm decision on a site, however, is months away.
"[RFK is] a great site, right on the river, and I think could be a very powerful catalyst to a much broader redevelopment of that area," Malek said.


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