- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley yesterday gave a hearty endorsement for the Washington area winning the relocation derby for the Montreal Expos, countering the heated objections of Orioles owner Peter Angelos and many of the Baltimore business and civic communities.

“We’re glad whenever people come into our city to watch the Orioles play,” O’Malley said. “I think there are a lot of diehard Orioles fans in the Washington area. I would hope that they would still want to come to Baltimore and our great stadium, and I’m not opposed to them having a team.”

This is not the first time O’Malley has publicly endorsed greater Washington’s quest for baseball. But it does mark the first such comments since District Mayor Anthony Williams vowed in April not to attend any more Orioles games at Camden Yards unless and until his city landed the Expos.

And the sentiment also arrives at a time when mudslinging between the District and Northern Virginia camps, seen for weeks as the front-runners for the Expos, continues to intensify, as does strident anti-Washington baseball arguments from organizations such as the Greater Baltimore Committee.

“Mayor O’Malley believes the area is big enough to support two teams, and he’s simply leaving it to Major League Baseball to determine whether that is the case,” said Rick Abbruzzese, O’Malley’s spokesman. “Peter Angelos, obviously, has made a different argument. The mayor believes O’s fans are loyal and will remain so.”

MLB commissioner Bud Selig and president Bob DuPuy yesterday met in Milwaukee to discuss the Expos’ relocation options. Baseball intends to name the team’s new home sometime this summer after more than two years of delays. DuPuy told MLB.com that there remains a “slim chance” the Expos could wind up back in Montreal next year.

“We’re doing this carefully and methodically,” DuPuy told the Web site. “But if we want to get it done for next year, time is running short.”

Meanwhile, Williams fired more barbs across the Potomac River yesterday toward the commonwealth’s baseball bid.

“You hear this talk about building a town center in Loudoun County. We already have a town center right here,” Williams said. “It’s already here and it started more than 200 years ago.”

Williams, however, threw out a head-scratcher when he characterized Northern Virginia’s preferred ballpark site near Dulles International Airport as “40, 50 miles out” of town. The site, near the intersection of the Dulles Toll Road and Route 28, is about 21 miles from central Washington. Williams also questioned the level of commitment from Diamond Lake Associates, a consortium of area developers seeking to build a massive collection of housing, office space and retail shops surrounding the ballpark.

“We have complete confidence in Diamond Lake and their ability to provide the necessary infrastructure,” said Brian Hannigan, spokesman for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority. “They’re very serious and we’re talking about a multi-billion dollar project. If the mayor would like us to brief him on our proposal, we’d be more than happy to do that. At the moment, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And where is his financing plan?”

District officials intend to fund a ballpark with a combination of ballpark-related sales taxes and taxes on the gross receipts and personal property of large businesses in the city. But the District has not publicly released its latest proposed stadium financing plan or bond repayment plans based on various levels of attendance.

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