- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 14, 2004

Tony Tavares, president of the former Montreal Expos/current Washington baseball team, will meet with members of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission today to discuss how to proceed with the estimated $13million worth of renovations needed to prepare RFK Stadium for baseball next season.

As Tavares arrived to begin local baseball operations, a local group hoping to purchase the relocated Expos urged fans to lobby city council members to support legislation to fund the proposed $430million ballpark on the Anacostia waterfront.

Tavares, who arrived in town Tuesday night and is setting up shop temporarily at a local hotel, said the meeting today with city officials is to “discuss a schedule of priorities about what can be accomplished with the budgeted money [for RFK renovations].”

The president of the franchise, still owned by the 29 existing major league club owners, is proceeding with plans for marketing and ticket sales, despite opposition surfacing among some factions in the city against Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ ballpark financing plan.

Council candidate and former mayor Marion Barry told The Washington Times in an interview that he will block construction contracts and legislation for building the ballpark even if the city seals a deal with Major League Baseball before he likely joins the council in January.

The local ownership group led by financier Fred Malek is very concerned about the legislation and has been asking supporters to let their feeling be known to elected District officials.

“Many of you have contacted us asking how to express support for the city’s plan to build a new ballpark for the new team on the Anacostia Riverfront,” wrote Winston Lord, executive director of the Washington Baseball Club. “The City Council is set to vote on this critical issue in the coming weeks. Opponents of baseball are putting out a lot of misleading information about this project. That’s why we need people like you, who support baseball and understand the benefits it will bring to our economy, our city and our communities to make your voices heard.”

The Washington Baseball Club is expected to be one of a number of bidders for the relocated Expos. But a new owner might not be selected and in place to operate the team until late winter or spring, and until then MLB will continue to operate the franchise as it has for the past three seasons.

“We need a ticketing company up and running and to put systems in place to get back to people who have said they were interested in buying tickets,” Tavares said. “We need to hire sales and marketing people. We have to find some office space and have been working on getting some modular offices constructed at RFK Stadium, and we need to find space in town to conduct sponsorship and sales meetings with business and community leaders.

“We need to focus on sponsorship dollars within the stadium. We are starting behind the eight ball a little bit on that. A lot of the money budgeted for sponsorships is already done. We are running fast and hard on that.”

As far as baseball decisions are concerned — the primary one being the hiring of a general manager to replace Omar Minaya, who left to run the New York Mets baseball operation — Tavares said he expected to make a decision by the end of the month. Former Baltimore Orioles GM Pat Gillick, who told The Washington Times he is very interested in the position, is among the potential candidates.

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