- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2004

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Major League Baseball is refusing to back off its demand that a commitment to a ballpark and funding must be in place for any location to which the Montreal Expos might move, the head of baseball’s relocation committee said yesterday.

“It is an objective to have a facility committed for and understand how the facility is going to come together before a decision is made,” Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer and chairman of the relocation committee, said in the first day of owners meetings. “We don’t want to do something in the blind, no.”

That means the game of chicken among baseball and officials from the District and Northern Virginia will continue. Both jurisdictions have set a conditional award of the Expos as a prerequisite for ballpark funding approval.

Baseball also will keep the pressure on the District and Northern Virginia by not eliminating any of the communities that recently have expressed interest in being the permanent home of the Expos: Las Vegas; the Hampton Roads area of Virginia; Monterrey, Mexico; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the Expos will play 22 home games this year for the second straight season.

“One thing I will tell you is that we did not recommend the elimination of any candidate at this point,” DuPuy said shortly after emerging from a meeting of the relocation committee. “We discussed the visits that have been made over the last few weeks, and we discussed the status of the current candidates.”

District Sports & Entertainment Commission member Bill Hall said the city is still not clear on the recommendation process.

“We anxiously wait for baseball to make clear what the timetable is and what the process is,” Hall said. “We are anxious to help them resolve relocation.”

Gabe Paul, executive director of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, said it is hoping to have a decision soon.

“From the statements we have heard, they are serious about relocation, and we are hoping that a decision can be made in the next few months,” Paul said.

Delegations from the District, Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore., made the trip to Phoenix 10 months ago to make presentations to the relocation committee about their financing and ballpark plans. There are no plans for the four sites now added to the list to make similar presentations. Several members of the committee visited the Hampton Roads area Monday, and they also recently went to Monterrey for a site visit. DuPuy said some regular-season games could be played in Monterrey in 2004.

“That is still under consideration,” he said. “You could do it in September. Could it be done? Yes. Will it get done or not? I don’t know.”

There have been no known visits to Las Vegas, though DuPuy said, “there have been a number of meetings with Vegas.” He did appear to eliminate San Antonio as a possible candidate, saying, “there hasn’t been any discussions with San Antonio in some time now.”

The Expos are owned by the existing 29 major league owners, part of a 2002 deal in which Jeffrey Loria sold the franchise to baseball for $120million. That allowed Loria to purchase the Florida Marlins for $158million from John Henry, who then headed a group that bought the Boston Red Sox for $700million.

There have been several timetables set for a recommendation by the relocation committee, but those deadlines have come and gone, and the issue is still unresolved. However, DuPuy insisted they still want to have a permanent home for the Expos in time for the 2005 season.

“It is not only viable, it is desirable,” he said.

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