- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

The long-awaited lease agreement between Major League Baseball and the District for the Washington Nationals’ new $535 million ballpark is still being negotiated and likely will not be completed until mid-September, the chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission said last night.

The delay pushes back the selection of an owner for the team until the lease is finished, which commission chairman Mark Tuohey said probably will be done within two weeks.

Tuohey said there was no chance baseball would select an owner for the Nationals before the lease is completed and agreed upon.

“They told us they are holding off until that is done,” he said.

Bob DuPuy, MLB’s chief operating officer, told the Associated Press yesterday baseball wants a lease for a ballpark signed before the selection of an owner is announced. Last week DuPuy predicted a new owner would be named by Monday.

Eight groups are bidding for the former Montreal Expos franchise, which baseball’s other 29 clubs bought in 2002 for $120 million. The selection process has moved forward, and the list is expected to be narrowed down to three bidders by setting a sales price that could be as high as $450 million.

After that, negotiations are expected to take place between MLB and the finalists, with local ownership and minority representation being major considerations in the final selection, according to a source familiar with the process.

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