- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, along with NFL counterpart Paul Tagliabue, will receive a prestigious Honor Award tonight from the National Building Museum for his role in the massive stadium development boom of the last dozen years.

The plaudit is not without a dose of bitter local irony, considering baseball steadfastly has refused to build anything in Washington for the past 32 years.

But the NBM honor is quite serious, having been previously bestowed on the likes of Walt Disney Corp. chairman Michael Eisner, the Rockefeller family and the late James W. Rouse, who led the transformation of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The black tie dinner also marks a rare appearance together by two of the most powerful leaders in sports.

“The commissioner will talk about the role of ballparks in developing communities,” said Rich Levin, MLB senior vice president of communications. “It’s obviously something he feels passionately about.”

Since 1992, 37 NFL and MLB stadiums have been built, extensively renovated or are now in development. In the process, many of the new facilities redefined what fans and teams alike expect from stadiums, particularly through modern amenities. Luxury boxes and high-tech scoreboards, architecture that borrows liberally from classic forms, and land planning that weaves new stadiums in broader urban revitalization efforts is the norm.

Selig’s remarks for the dinner still are being prepared. Levin said there will be no specific mention of Washington’s bid for the MLB-owned Montreal Expos. Despite self-professed intentions to determine the Expos’ permanent new home by mid-July and then early September, the orphaned franchise is still adrift. MLB executives are hurriedly trying to determine the team’s 2004 home schedule. Most games will be back in Montreal and a portion of the slate is headed for San Juan, Puerto Rico, or Monterrey, Mexico. Permanent relocation is seen as all but impossible before 2005.

The Washington area long has been seen as a front-runner to land the Expos, but political leaders in both the District and Northern Virginia demand a commitment from baseball to move the Expos before they will complete site and financing work. The move runs contrary to baseball’s demand of completed stadium financing before relocating the Expos.

While Selig will make a quick trip to Washington for the dinner, Tagliabue will have a full day here, with an owners’ meeting preceding the event. NFL owners will vote on a new funding plan for NFL Europe, as well as Miami’s bid for the 2007 Super Bowl.

The previous funding package for NFL Europe, the NFL’s developmental league, expired earlier this year. Much to the chagrin of some owners, the league was unprofitable. Despite the lack of profits, both Tagliabue and NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw lobbied for owners to approve further funding. Ratification requires approval from at least 24 of 32 team owners.

The Washington Redskins seek to have FedEx Field play host to the 2008 Super Bowl, and a decision on that game is expected late next month at another owners’ meeting in Chicago.

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