Meeting produces no solution for Expos

Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004

MILWAUKEE Major league baseball's executive council met for three hours Thursday but made no formal recommendation on whether the Montreal Expos should move to Washington next season.

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a member of the eight-owner council, appears to be the chief obstacle to a move. Angelos has said having a team about 40 miles from Camden Yards would take away fans and revenue from his franchise.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said the meeting at commissioner Bud Selig's office was amicable.

''Peter Angelos has made his views known with regard to the effect that he believes a team in the D.C. area will have on the Baltimore Orioles and he articulated those views,'' DuPuy said. ''Mr. Angelos' concerns, which are shared by the commissioner and have been all along, have always been a serious issue.''

Angelos was not available for comment following the meeting. DuPuy hopes to have a decision by the end of the regular season on Oct. 3.

''I think we're all running out of time,'' he said.

Downtown Washington appears to be the favorite to land the Expos, who were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season. Washington's bid group met for 11 1/2 hours last week with members of baseball's relocation committee and went over intricate details what a move would entail.

Northern Virginia officials also met last week with baseball, but their meeting was much briefer. Northern Virginia has proposed building a stadium in Loudoun County near Dulles International Airport, about 60 miles from Camden Yards.

''It was not expecting a final decision today, and thus am not disappointed by the outcome,'' said Bill Hall, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission's baseball committee. ''I'm encouraged by the statement that the decision will be made by the end the next week, and hope that will be sooner, and remain optimistic that it will be Washington D.C.''

DuPuy said negotiations on a move have taken longer than anticipated because everybody on the council wants to explore all the ramifications of a move. Baseball at first hoped to have a decision by mid-2002, then pushed it back a year, then delayed it another year.

''Commissioner Selig likes to develop consensus and we were not satisfied with where we were a year ago,'' DuPuy said. ''We're much more satisfied with where we're heading, but nothing ever goes as quickly as you like.''

He expected Selig to contact all the council members in the next few days to get their views.

Once Selig makes it a decision, it must be approved by all owners and financing for a new ballpark must be finalized. In addition, the Expos' former limited partners say they will attempt to block a move in federal court, and Angelos could attempt legal action.

Virginia's bid has stumbled in recent weeks, partly because Gov. Mark R. Warner will not support a plan to build a ballpark using bonds backed by the ''moral obligation'' of the state.

Warner's spokeswoman, Ellen Qualls, said Thursday that the governor's own concerns about the use of moral obligation bonds, as well as opposition from key legislators, forced him to look for other alternatives.

''He's pushing for a different financing mechanism,'' Qualls said.

Additional bids have been made by Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk, Va.; and Portland, Ore.

While DuPuy said no contenders have been eliminated, baseball has focused on Washington and Northern Virginia since May.

In other news Thursday, the Expos prepared to announce that the Potomac franchise of the Class-A Carolina League will become one of their affiliates next season. The club was a Cincinnati farm team this year.

Associated Press Writers Matthew Barakat in McLean, Va., and Joseph White in Washington contributed to this report

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