- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2002

The RFK Stadium property, two spots between Mount Vernon Square and Union Station, land west of the Southeast Federal Center, and the area directly north of Union Station will be among the potential District baseball facility locations that will be presented Wednesday at a public meeting.
The five locations, with others possibly being added in coming days, highlight a ballpark site evaluation project that will be sent to Major League Baseball by the end of October.
District officials stressed that the potential locations, while nearly all a part of baseball discussion in the city for years, do not represent the final choices. A final choice will not be made until MLB officials actually move a franchise to Washington and many more public hearings are held.
"This is really only one part of the process," said Andrew Altman, District director of planning. "No decisions have been made. No decisions will be made next week [at the meeting]. We are still assessing how all these potential locations will work in the long-range vision of the city, and ideally, the long-range vision of baseball, and what kind of impact they would have. We're looking forward to getting a lot of good feedback. But we think we're off to a solid start."
The site evaluation project a joint effort between the city planning office, the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission and a bid group led by financier Fred Malek is designed to start clarifying long-hazy promises from city leaders to MLB on the District's ability to build a ballpark.
Two years ago, District Mayor Anthony Williams promised MLB commissioner Bud Selig $200million in public-sector assistance, representing a combination of land, grants and financing measures, and amounting to roughly half the total cost of a ballpark. But beyond Williams' bullishness on the project, there were few hard specifics on where the stadium would be and how it would be financed.
"I still think there is a way to go yet on financing," said Bobby Goldwater, sports commission president. "There are a number of variables and initial work being done. We'd, of course, like to hear from Major League Baseball. Hopefully we will have more clarity on that soon."
Each one of the potential stadium sites has significant advantages and drawbacks. The first Mount Vernon Square site, centered on Massachusetts Avenue NW between Third and Fifth Streets NW, fits squarely within an overriding trend toward downtown stadium development in baseball and ready access to public transportation. But the land belongs to many different owners, and has risen in value significantly in recent years due to the success of MCI Center and the forthcoming Washington Convention Center near the site.
The same situation exists for the other potential downtown site, also near Union Station roughly bordered by Massachusetts and New Jersey avenues and North Capitol and I streets NW.
The RFK Stadium property is large (about 90 acres), is obviously designed for large-scale sports use and also is Metro-accessible. But its location is the furthest removed from downtown.
The Northeast location, located near the intersection of New York Avenue and First Street NE, is near the site of a planned Metro station and has ready access to one of the city's primary east-west roadways. But like RFK, it does not have a critical mass of surrounding commercial development. In that development scenario, the old Woodward & Lothrop warehouse would not be targeted for demolition.
The Southeast site, located just west of the Southeast Federal Center near South Capitol and M streets, offers a similar situation: an area primed for additional redevelopment but currently existing outside the usual transit patterns of many tourists and local residents.
Nearly all of these locations were previously named as stadium possibilities in early 1999 when the sports commission conducted a similar, though less intensive, study.
Hopes for an area baseball team, an emotional roller-coaster ride over the past three decades, are again on the upswing with the possibility of the Montreal Expos being moved here. The Expos, baseball's worst revenue generator, are owned and operated by MLB and a decision on their status for 2003 is possible in the next several weeks.
Wednesday's 6 p.m. forum at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library is the second of two public sessions on baseball stadium development organized by the sports commission and the Malek group.
Leaders of a rival Northern Virginia bid for baseball also say they have several potential stadium locations in the commonwealth but have refused to disclose them publicly. Efforts there, led by telecommunications executive Bill Collins, have recently centered on a selecting an architect to design a ballpark. A selection is expected Oct.10.

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