- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

District baseball boosters, seeking needed momentum before the City Council begins consideration of a $338.7million stadium financing bill, will hold a rally Monday in downtown Washington.

Mayor Anthony Williams will attend the session, slated for 5-7p.m. at 8th and D Streets NW, near the Navy Memorial. The rally, being promoted as a “block party,” comes three days before the council holds its first hearing on the Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003 on June12. The proposed legislation seeks to earmark stadium-related sales and admission tax revenue, as well as collect taxes on the gross receipts of large District businesses, to finance bonds on a new stadium.

The timing is sensitive as Major League Baseball intends to name the permanent home for the Montreal Expos by July15, the date of this year’s All-Star Game. A growing number of baseball insiders, however, do not believe that timetable will be honored, and that the MLB-owned Expos will split yet another season between Quebec and Puerto Rico.

But passage of the financing bill would represent by far the District’s largest and most concrete step toward returning baseball to the city, and also could mark action too strong for MLB executives to ignore.

“We’ve not done any kind of public event relative to baseball in some time, so this is a chance to hear, be heard, have some fun, and express the broad support for baseball returning to the District we know exists,” said Bobby Goldwater, executive director of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission. The commission organized the event along with the mayor’s office and department of planning and economic development.

Financier and prospective team owner Fred Malek also likely will appear at the rally, as well as former players with the Washington Senators and Homestead Grays, who also played in Griffith Stadium.

Malek’s Washington Baseball Club in recent weeks similarly has been seeking volunteers and fans to contact the City Council and lobby for approval of the stadium financing.

The final stadium financing, if approved, likely will proceed without a “jock tax” on the salaries of baseball players competing in the District. The city’s efforts to amend its Home Rule charter to allow that specific non-resident taxation has garnered significant opposition from MLB executives and the players’ union, as well as Congress.

The city council similarly remains skeptical on the rest of the financing package, particularly regarding safeguards for the bond measures.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority will meet tonight in Chantilly, largely in executive session, to review ongoing site plans for a ballpark in the commonwealth. Despite several indicators of strong citizen support for a ballpark, most demonstrably shown at several recent public forums hosted by the authority, none of the landowners of five potential sites have shown any willingness to sell their land.

The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, which owns a prime Pentagon City parcel with several private investors, has filed preliminary development plans with Arlington County for both the north and south portions of its land. On top of an existing application for a phased, mixed-used development on the south section, a second application seeks another mixed-use project on the north end of the Cafritz lot near Army-Navy Drive.

“We are still moving ahead with our plans,” said John Barron, attorney for the Cafritz foundation. “We are continuing to operate as if there will be no stadium there.”

Also, the stadium authority and the Virginia Baseball Club tonight will seek to alter their existing exclusivity agreement, baseball sources said. To be the commonwealth’s favored ownership group, VBC pays the authority $1million a year in grants and loans, due each May. Bill Collins and his partners are seeking to break the payment into installments, based in part on their desire to see what baseball does this summer with the Expos.

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