- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2003

With a decision just months away on whether Virginia will land a Major League Baseball team, state lawmakers are split and have different plans for such a deal in the upcoming General Assembly session.

Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., McLean Republican, will propose a bill to extend the life of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority when the legislature convenes Jan. 14. The authority was established to build a stadium.

Mr. Callahan, whose father was a batboy for the Washington Senators in 1914, wants to keep the authority in operation through 2008. The Montreal Expos are the only major-league franchise with immediate plans to move, and at least six other groups are trying to attract the team.

Without the bill, the state authority’s funding would expire in 2005.

Not every state lawmaker is eager to spend taxpayer money on a baseball franchise.

Delegate David B. Albo, Springfield Republican, plans to introduce a bill stating that local governments opposed to a stadium will not have to pay taxes to provide one.

He is particularly opposed to building a stadium on the federally owned Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, worried that developers will skirt local zoning regulations.

“This cuts off the financing if they put it there,” he said. “This way, they cannot build there unless they have local government approval.”

Mr. Albo says he wants Northern Virginia to have a baseball team but thinks a stadium in Crystal City off Interstate 395 would be an ideal site.

Most residents and lawmakers in Northern Virginia support bringing a team to the region, despite such groups as Citizens Against a Major League Baseball Stadium, which opposes use of Fort Belvoir and counts Mr. Albo among its members.

Gov. Mark Warner, Democrat, supports the idea of having a team and has criticized Major League Baseball officials for slow decision-making.

The District is among Virginia’s competitors trying to draw the Expos by opening day in 2005. The others cities are Las Vegas; Norfolk; Portland, Ore.; San Antonio, Texas; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. League officials are expected to make a decision in the coming months.

“What we offer Major League Baseball is a terrific region,” said Tony Bullock, spokesman for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Democrat. He said the District’s Metro system and tourism base give it an advantage over the other regions.

“We’ve made a very generous offer that ought to get their attention,” he said.

The District, however, must negotiate the deal without Robert D. Goldwater, the former executive director of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

Mr. Goldwater, who earned $275,000 a year until his resignation in the fall, was hired partly to bring baseball back to the city. When Mr. Goldwater announced his departure, he said the District had the best shot to get a team.

Mr. Bullock said the commission will find a new leader and continue to pursue the Expos.

He also said the District has a “more comprehensive plan” than Virginia.

Virginia baseball boosters think they have the advantage because their team would not compete as directly with the Baltimore Orioles, said Brian Hannigan, spokesman for Virginia’s stadium authority.

“We think we’ve made the case, and the decision ought to be an easy one,” Mr. Hannigan said. “None of the other areas compare in any way, shape or form.”

The Expos’ 2004 home schedule will be played in Monterey, Mexico, which also is bidding to keep the team.


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