- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

The dream of Major League Baseball in Northern Virginia, effectively dead since last fall, officially ended yesterday as the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority voted to shut itself down effective June 30.

Since MLB selected the District last fall as the new home of the Montreal Expos, the stadium authority has been working off an austerity budget, planning its eventual closure, and loosely supporting fledgling efforts to bring a team to Norfolk.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has not decided whether to re-create the stadium authority in Hampton Roads, though lapsed legislation to use stadium-related taxes to support the ballpark construction costs was resurrected earlier this year by the General Assembly. But with the Nationals firmly established in the District, there was no reason for the stadium authority to continue in Northern Virginia, ending 13 years of active pursuit of an MLB team.

The Northern Virginia bid, however, seriously tested its regional rival for the Expos, even as plans for a suburban stadium near Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County contradicted the last decade of ballpark development trends. The commonwealth’s offer received a critical blow in August, just weeks before MLB’s decision on the Expos, when Warner refused to allow the moral obligation of Virginia to act as backing for ballpark bonds.

Others argue the best chance for baseball in Virginia actually fell apart in 2003, when tentative plans for an Arlington stadium were squashed by fierce government opposition.

“This is a bittersweet moment,” authority chairman Keith Frederick said. “We put forth a viable plan and we were extremely close to bringing in the franchise. We can go away holding our heads high.”

Gabe Paul Jr., authority executive director, now plans to form his own private sports consulting group, tapping into nearly four decades of experience in the industry. Aiding him on some projects will be Bobby Goldwater, former executive director of the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission.

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