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D.C. Offers Waterfront Baseball Stadium

Sources Say Owners Will Support Moving Expos to Washington

By Serge F. Kovaleski and Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 22, 2004; Page A01

District officials disclosed plans yesterday to build a publicly financed stadium costing more than $400 million on the Anacostia waterfront near South Capitol Street, amid growing signs that Major League Baseball will attempt to move the Montreal Expos to Washington.

Two high-level baseball sources said the owners' relocation committee is leaning toward recommending at an executive council meeting tomorrow in Milwaukee that the Expos be moved to Washington. That would trigger what figure to be delicate negotiations with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos.

The planned stadium site, in foreground, has a view of downtown and the Capitol as well as the Anacostia waterfront. (Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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"Everyone recognizes that we are running out of time, and we hope a decision can be made by October 1," said baseball President Robert DuPuy.

Angelos reiterated yesterday his willingness to fight an Expos move to the District, saying it would drain away fans, financially damage his franchise and hinder its ability to compete.

"My position remains unchanged for the reasons I have repeatedly articulated," Angelos said. "The facts don't alter that position." He declined to comment further.

Although yesterday's developments signaled that the District's 33-year wait for the return of baseball could be nearing an end, baseball officials cautioned that no deal has been reached and that several obstacles remain.

A high-ranking baseball source said that besides Angelos, possible impediments are a lawsuit filed in Miami by former Expos owners, the need to get approval for the District's financing plan from the D.C. Council and any unforeseen problems with the renovation of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, which would be the team's temporary home.

Northern Virginia also is trying to land the Expos. Baseball officials said its bid is still under consideration, although problems have developed with its stadium financing plan.

The proposed new District stadium near the Anacostia River would be part of a $440 million package that would include $13 million for renovations of RFK. The plan would require the approval of the D.C. Council, whose members offered mixed reactions after a 45-minute briefing by officials from the mayor's office and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

The city would finance the proposed stadium with 30-year bonds, according to the plan outlined to council members yesterday. The annual debt service would be composed of $21 million to $24 million from a gross receipts tax on District businesses, $5.5 million in rent from the team's owners and $11 million to $14 million from in-stadium taxes on tickets, concessions and merchandise. City officials said the new tax would be imposed on businesses with gross receipts of $3 million or more annually -- or about 11 percent of businesses in the District.

The team's owners would keep revenue from the sale of the stadium's naming rights, according to people who attended the briefing.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), who did not attend the briefing, reacted cautiously when asked whether he expected an announcement soon that the Expos were coming to Washington.

"It's still a major challenge for Major League Baseball to make a decision our way. . . . I don't take anything for granted," Williams said. "Are we in better shape than we have been in the past? Yes."

The stadium site, bounded by M, South Capitol, P and First streets SE, had been one of four locations under consideration in the city. City officials said it was selected because of its potential to spur economic development without causing a negative impact on a residential community. The 20-acre site, including streets, is 40 percent vacant. City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said that the site is owned by multiple private parties and that the District would not begin negotiations with them to buy the land until it has been awarded a team.

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