- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

Northern Virginia is back in play as a relocation site for the Montreal Expos now that it has a place to put a ballpark.

You might need a helicopter to get to games there, but for now it is at least an address: the intersection of Route 28 and the Dulles Toll Road. The toll road might have to be expanded to 26 lanes to accommodate the crowds of 35,000 or more that would travel in rush hour traffic to see baseball there.

The idea of building a ballpark so far from the District, in a place where traffic is a commuter’s nightmare, seems doomed to fail. One of the thoughts behind placing a team in Northern Virginia has been to put it as close to the District as possible to create the illusion of a team that belongs to Washington but is not actually in the city.

The Dulles site would create the illusion of a team in Kansas.

In a way, this is Northern Virginia’s version of the District proposal to build on the RFK site: It’s not the place they want, but at least it’s something they can present to baseball.

Efforts by the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority to secure a less remote site in Arlington have failed miserably in the face of government and community opposition.

Gabe Paul, the authority’s executive director, says Arlington “is still in the mix,” though by the time they got through all the lawsuits and NIMBY protests there, the Metro stop at the Dulles site would be open. That opening is targeted for 2015, but considering that it is a government transportation project, 2020 seems more likely.

The Expos could move here and leave for Las Vegas by then.

That was the other perceived key to a successful site in Northern Virginia, that it would be on a Metro line. This proposed site is closer to a runway.

Still, it means that the Northern Virginia baseball effort is alive, if not well. That pleases Major League Baseball because there are some within the game who remain sold on Northern Virginia.

The District appears to have the momentum, with its proposal for a publicly financed ballpark and with the good vibrations from a recent meeting between city officials and baseball’s relocation committee.

And the District got good news at the owners meetings in New York on Wednesday when MLB president Bob DuPuy said it is not a prerequisite for all financing to be approved for the relocation committee to make a decision. City officials, led by Councilman Jack Evans, have maintained all along that once baseball made a decision, the financing would be approved.

But it was Northern Virginia, led by Bill Collins and Virginia Baseball, that changed the thinking of many owners over the past 10 years about baseball’s prospects for success in the Washington area this time around.

Some of those owners — including members of the relocation committee — want to see Virginia’s bid remain viable for consideration.

Which brings us the latest double talk from Cadillac Bud Selig.

Members of the relocation committee publicly stated after their meeting with District officials that the presence of the Baltimore Orioles should not be a factor in the decision to relocate the Expos. But Cadillac Bud is now said to have “grave concerns” about the impact a club in the District would have on his Orioles.

“I’ve always been extremely sensitive to the effect of one club on another in all markets,” Cadillac Bud said yesterday. “My job is to protect the interests of all 30 clubs. We want to be very thoughtful in how we do this.”

If the Orioles are a factor, I believe that plays into Northern Virginia’s favor. After all, you can’t argue that putting the team closer to the Blue Ridge mountains than Camden Yards will hurt the Orioles.

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