- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

CHICAGO — Leaders of baseball efforts from both the District and Northern Virginia now know there will be no definitive decision on the Montreal Expos’ future this week, as was the original expectation. So they’re settling for any kind of feedback from Major League Baseball executives and owners.

Both jurisdictions are here for MLB’s 74th All-Star Game, seeking to take a temperature on their efforts from a pool of baseball executives much broader than just MLB’s relocation committee. Though that committee is leading the search for a new Expos home, commissioner Bud Selig and team owners will need to approve any move.

“We think we have made a tremendous amount of progress, particularly compared to even a year or two ago,” said Bobby Goldwater, executive director of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission. “So we’d certainly like some kind of affirmation of that.”

Neither local jurisdiction has any formal or official meetings scheduled with MLB executives during the All-Star break but instead will be in contact with baseball owners, general managers and front-office executives on a more informal basis.

“As always, this is an important opportunity to talk face-to-face and meet with the many people and friends we know in baseball,” said William Collins, chairman of the Virginia Baseball Club. “What we certainly want to do is get additional viewpoints from around baseball, get a sense of what people are really thinking and hearing.”

Even with that loose agenda and no Expos decision imminent, confidence from the local bidders remains high.

“The committee has conducted a very legitimate and methodical process, and we think we’re now definitely getting toward the finish line,” Collins said. “It may be July, August, September, October [when an Expos decision arrives], but we think we’ve done everything the committee has asked.”

MLB executives are now targeting a period between late August and the end of the season to decide on the Expos’ future. While baseball is still holding out hope for a permanent solution to the MLB-owned Expos’ woes for 2004, most industry insiders consider a return to Puerto Rico nearly inevitable. The Expos will play 22 “home” games in San Juan this season, and promoter Antonio Munoz has sought more games for next year.

The delay in the relocation timetable, much in keeping with baseball’s traditionally slow-moving decision making, could provide time for either Portland, Ore., or the District to advance stadium financing efforts. Both areas have stadium bills before legislative bodies, though concern about debt loads and baseball’s chronic indecision have slowed both efforts.

Northern Virginia, conversely, is standing pat for the moment on its stadium financing. But it has asked for months for a conditional award of the Expos — a request since duplicated by the District — to complete financing and site issues. The commonwealth’s stadium site situation is particularly problematic because the owners of its first choice site in Pentagon City — the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and H Street Building Corp. — are openly hostile to the ballpark idea.

Representing the District are Goldwater and Bill Hall of the sports commission. A still-undetermined group of District government officials will be arriving today and tomorrow. Winston Lord, executive director of the Washington Baseball Club, the prospective owner group led by financier Fred Malek, also is here.

Northern Virginia sent a much larger delegation. Five officials from the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority are here, led by executive director Gabe Paul Jr. and vice chairman Keith Frederick. Collins has brought about 12 of his partners and consultants, including new Virginia Baseball Club members and ex-Washington Redskins Charles Mann and Art Monk.

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