- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

A decision on ownership of the Washington Nationals may be further off than anyone could have thought.

Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who is chairman of Major League Baseball’s relocation committee, suggested in an interview with WTOP Radio (AM-1500) that commissioner Bud Selig could wait until next year to select a team owner even if the league completes a stadium lease agreement with the city.

“Once the lease is done, [Selig] can then pick an owner at any time — it doesn’t matter whether it’s in the offseason, spring training or the middle of the season,” Reinsdorf told the station.

Selig said earlier this week he has yet to interview three of the eight groups bidding for the team, which is expected to sell for at least $450 million. As recently as last month MLB officials had indicated a decision could come at a meeting of owners next week in Milwaukee.

Reinsdorf’s comments drew the ire of several city council members, who also have expressed frustration over MLB’s unwillingness to agree to certain terms of the stadium lease.

Specifically, the city is asking MLB to commit to a $6 million annual lease payment in order to satisfy Wall Street bond raters. Councilman Jack Evans, a Ward 2 Democrat and chairman of the finance and revenue committee, told WTOP the city’s patience is running out.

“What I have told them is: This is non-negotiable,” Evans said. “So you either agree to this, or you move the team to somewhere else because we’re wasting our time. If you have to guarantee us a $6 million a year guarantee, then do it. I mean, enough is enough.”

In an interview, Evans said he expects the talks to complete the lease and get financing in place will go down to the wire, just like talks to complete the original ballpark agreement last December. The city must have money from the sale of bonds in place by the end of the year.

“I do believe it will get done at 11:50 p.m. on Dec. 31 and not a minute sooner,” Evans said.

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