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D.C. Offers Waterfront Baseball Stadium

Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), in whose district the stadium would be built, said she preferred the site over the others because of its potential for economic development.

"The M Street site has been my favorite for some time because it offers a great opportunity for spinoff economic development," Ambrose said. "It will help leverage development that is already going on there. And it will, I hope, jump-start development along South Capitol Street. In terms of disrupting a residential neighborhood, there really is none to disrupt. The businesses are largely industrial, and it is the kind of use that we would like to move farther away from the waterfront."

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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The other options were a new facility at the RFK site; a ballpark at New York Avenue at North Capitol Street; and a stadium across from L'Enfant Plaza in Banneker Park in Southwest Washington. The Banneker site, which would have straddled Interstate 395, had attracted the most interest from baseball officials because of its proximity to downtown and the Mall. But city officials said the cost of the Banneker site was prohibitive.

Of the 13 council members, four supported the project in interviews yesterday, four said they were undecided and three said they were opposed to any public financing of a stadium. The other two did not return phone calls.

"I am opposed to raising taxes, especially a gross receipts tax, to pay for a baseball stadium," said Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4).

Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) said he would back the stadium plan and the taxes to pay for it if it had the support of businesses.

"If the business community is for it, I'm for it," Orange said. Baseball "is something the business community wants. They know they can't get a stadium without paying for it."

Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said he was not convinced that the ballpark would provide economic spinoffs and was therefore undecided.

"If there is not a clear economic case for a stadium, and given the public resources that must be invested to make it work, what about all the other priorities and pressing needs that we have as a city?" Graham said.

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority has proposed building a publicly financed stadium in Loudoun County, although in recent weeks that proposal has run into problems with land acquisition for broader development surrounding the stadium as well as the apparent reluctance of state officials to back the stadium's bonds.

"According to representations by Major League Baseball, Loudoun County is alive and well," Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac), vice chairman of Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors, said yesterday.

Angelos is one of eight owners who sit on the executive council along with Commissioner Bud Selig, whose family owns an interest in the Milwaukee Brewers. The council is Selig's instrument for making all major decisions affecting the game.

The league is committed to moving the Expos to a new location by April. The District has told baseball officials that it needs the go-ahead in the next two weeks in order to pass a ballpark financing package by the end of the year. A new D.C. Council will take office in January.

Baseball's 29 owners purchased the Expos from Jeffrey Loria in February 2002 for $120 million and have lost tens of millions of dollars since. The owners have been weighing moving the team to another location and selling it to new owners, thereby recovering some if not all of their costs. In addition to the Washington area locations, the league had been considering moving the Expos to Las Vegas, Norfolk, Portland, Ore., and Monterrey, Mexico. Those sites gradually faded as the Washington area, propelled largely by the region's upscale demographics, received most of the attention from a relocation committee that baseball had created to decide the fate of the Expos.

If a decision is not forthcoming in the next two weeks, it almost certainly will be delayed until November because of baseball's reluctance to making announcements during the playoffs and World Series.

Staff writers Thomas Boswell, Michael Laris, Michael D. Shear and Yolanda Woodlee and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

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