- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

Even in defeat, Northern Virginia’s bid for the Montreal Expos refuses to go away.

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority yesterday voted to stay in existence indefinitely, providing Major League Baseball a fallback option should ongoing efforts to complete a move of the Expos to the District go awry.

While not openly angling for a collapse of the District baseball effort, stadium authority officials were quick to point out that numerous stadium projects either fail outright or change significantly from their original form.

“We hope D.C. does everything they need to do, but God forbid something falls apart and there’s a need to save the team and keep it in the National Capital region, we’ll be here,” said Keith Frederick, stadium authority chairman, after a four-hour meeting yesterday in McLean. “You never know what might happen. There is time to come back to us with a [memorandum of understanding] if there’s a need to.”

The authority’s Reston headquarters will remain open and fully staffed, led by executive director Gabe Paul Jr. Enabling that full staffing is a significant improvement in the authority’s financial position from a month ago. Slated a month ago to run out of money by December, the authority is now projecting a year-end surplus, due mostly to the elimination of the need to keep developing plans for a ballpark in Loudoun County.

The authority’s ability to retain ballpark-related sales taxes, representing the key portion of its stadium financing plan, expires Dec.31. Frederick said a replacement financing model has not been developed should the authority still be operating in 2005.

But the future of the Expos should be further clarified by end of the year. The D.C. Council must approve stadium financing for a proposed ballpark in Southeast near the Anacostia River waterfront by Dec.31 or MLB can void the deal relocating the Expos to the city.

The District stadium bill is widely expected to gain approval from the D.C. Council. But Mayor Anthony Williams and several key council members continue to battle numerous pockets of resistance to the baseball effort. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled Oct.28.

If the District’s financing does not pass, MLB retains the right to negotiate a short-term lease for the Expos to use RFK Stadium, where the team is set to play for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons while waiting for the new city ballpark.

HKS Inc., the Dallas-based architecture and planning company assisting Northern Virginia with the Loudoun stadium plan, was granted permission yesterday by the authority to bid on renovations being planned for RFK to ready the 43-year-old stadium for baseball. The company’s contract had included noncomplete clauses that prevented it from pursuing baseball work in the District.

Even with the Virginia stadium authority’s decision to keep operating, plans for an eventual, permanent shutdown as a result of MLB’s relocation decision have begun. Authority directors yesterday instructed Paul to begin disposing of non-essential assets, such as outmoded office equipment.

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