- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority is running out of money to fund its day-to-day operations, adding an extra layer of pressure as it awaits a decision from Major League Baseball on relocation of the Montreal Expos.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig is expected to name the Expos’ new home by the end of the month, perhaps within two weeks. But if the decision drags on past the World Series and into November, the authority may need to reduce or eliminate part of its efforts to bring baseball to the commonwealth.

The authority reported $552,359 in assets as of the end of August. But with bills from several consultants and legal advisers needing to be paid, a continuation of the status quo would reduce those assets to $160,210 by the end of November and a deficit of $33,526 at the end of the year, according to authority fiscal projections.

To that end, the authority Wednesday night directed chairman Keith Frederick and executive director Gabe Paul Jr. to “take all reasonable steps to manage the affairs and expenses of the authority in a prudent manner” and to “report all such decisions at the next meeting of the authority.” The resolution came after a closed session lasting nearly five hours.

“We’re on a very tight budget. We’ve always been on a very tight budget,” said Jerry McAndrews, chairman of the authority’s finance and administration committee.

Nearly all the authority’s operating funds are supplied by the Virginia Baseball Club, the prospective ownership group led by William Collins III. The group, which retains its status as the authority’s preferred ownership entity in exchange for the funding, is scheduled to provide the authority with a payment next week of $233,333. The financial projections for the rest of 2004 include the receipt of that payment.

The fiscal concerns are to some degree academic. If MLB does not make a decision on the Expos by the end of the year, Northern Virginia’s status as a candidate for the team effectively ends anyway. At that point, the authority loses its ability to capture ballpark-related sales and use taxes as a key method to help fund construction.

But the current situation highlights the slimming window of opportunity Northern Virginia retains to land the Expos.

“This is part of why we went so long tonight,” Frederick said. “We talked a lot about [financial] contingencies and discussed what our priorities are.”

If November arrives without an Expos decision, it is likely the authority would redraft its budget to reflect an austerity situation or approach Collins and his partners for an advance on its next payment. The group is due to make another payment to the authority of $416,667 on Jan.14, assuming the authority is still operating.

Conversely, if Northern Virginia wins the Expos derby, the authority’s ability to complete stadium financing and obtain additional working capital would be enhanced greatly.

Northern Virginia’s baseball lobby, like that of District officials, is deep into lease negotiations on a potential stadium deal with MLB’s relocation committee. But the city is funding its pursuit of baseball largely through the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission and the mayor’s Department of Planning and Economic Development and is incurring expenses relative to baseball at a far slower rate than Northern Virginia. The sports commission is projecting to end a five-year streak of unprofitability and complete fiscal 2004 in the black.

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