Baseball Officials Visit Area
Participants Include Key Adviser to Selig
By Thomas Heath and Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 10, 2004; Page B01
Representatives from Major League Baseball were in the Washington area yesterday to meet with groups from Northern Virginia and the District, which are separately trying to bring the Montreal Expos to their respective locales, according to baseball sources.
Among the participants was Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a member of baseball's relocation committee who is one of Commissioner Bud Selig's most trusted advisers.
The discussions and the fact that the local groups are putting details of their proposals in writing mean that baseball may be getting close to finding a new home for the Expos. But baseball officials cautioned that just because their representatives were in the area does not mean their search has narrowed. None of the six candidate cities has been removed from contention, they said.
Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy, who is heading up the relocation effort, said by e-mail yesterday that "discussions are ongoing" with all the sites, but he declined to elaborate.
Mark H. Tuohey III, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, and Steven Green, special assistant to the mayor for planning and economic development, declined to comment.
A spokesman for Northern Virginia's baseball efforts declined to comment.
In addition to Northern Virginia and the District, cities vying for the Expos are Norfolk, Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and Monterrey, Mexico.
Selig has said he hopes to name a new home for the Expos this summer, but the decision is not expected to come until after next week's All-Star Game in Houston and could be delayed until at least next month.
Some observers think Selig is reluctant to put a team in the Washington market unless he is assured that it will not hurt the fan base of the Baltimore Orioles, owned by Selig ally Peter G. Angelos. Angelos opposes a team in the Washington market because he says it will devalue his franchise. Many of the fans who visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards are from the D.C. area.
But league owners are becoming impatient and would like the Expos -- owned and subsidized by the other 29 teams -- to be placed in a permanent, viable home.
William Somerindyke Jr., leader of the group that is trying to bring the Expos to Norfolk, said he met with baseball officials in New York last month and has been in frequent communication with them.
"We presented a pretty lengthy presentation to them updating our [ticket and suite sales] campaign, which they were very interested in," Somerindyke said.
Mike Shapiro, a sports consultant working with the Las Vegas effort, said he has talked with baseball officials within the past few days.
"They have only told us we are in it," Shapiro said. "They have consistently said to us that all of the cities are under very serious consideration and they are trying to do their due diligence on all the proposals. They are taking their time and doing this properly so that they can, to the greatest extent possible, make the right decision."
Baseball boosters in the District and Northern Virginia have each put together packages that would entail large public investments in new stadiums, which are viewed as vital components of their bids.
District officials say that returning the nation's pastime to the capital makes sense for a variety of economic and other reasons.
Building downtown stadiums has been the trend for baseball over the past dozen years. Proponents of the District bid tout the vitality of the city as a key selling point.
Virginia officials say putting a stadium near Dulles International Airport, just inside Loudoun, the nation's fastest-growing county, and next to wealthy Fairfax County, with its more than 1 million residents, is the right way to build a successful franchise for the long run.
Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company