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Baseball Moves Closer In D.C. Plan for Expos

Orioles' Owner Angelos Would Be Compensated

By Thomas Heath and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 24, 2004; Page A01

MILWAUKEE, Sept. 23 -- Major League Baseball is pressing forward with plans to move the Montreal Expos to the District, according to sources with direct knowledge of Thursday's meeting of baseball's Executive Council. Although Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos reiterated his opposition to the move during the meeting, baseball has resolved to construct a financial package over the next few days that would compensate him, the sources said.

With baseball's self-imposed deadline and the District's legislative deadline both coming at the end of next week, officials on both sides were preparing for an announcement soon that the Expos, currently owned and operated by MLB, would begin play at RFK Stadium next April.

Major League Baseball President Robert A. DuPuy says are "some loose ends that need to get tied up" before the owners decide on the Expos' relocation. (Ron Kuenstler -- AP)

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"I think we're all running out of time and we realize that," said MLB President Robert A. DuPuy, speaking generally about the relocation process at a news conference in which he revealed few specifics but indicated that years of negotiations will conclude soon. "I'd like to think everybody is on the same wavelength with regard to time schedule. I think we're talking about a very short window of opportunity to continue to negotiate."

Sources, speaking on condition that they not be identified because talks are in a sensitive stage, described a process that is virtually complete on the strength of the District's bid, which includes a publicly funded $400 million stadium on the banks of the Anacostia River. The bid, the sources said, has overwhelmed the competition and has left Angelos few options to prevent the move. The Milwaukee meeting appeared to be another sign that a 33-year saga is quickly moving to a decision with some well-informed sources who were previously cautious now believing baseball will return to the District for the first time since 1971.

Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a key player on the relocation committee, worked with D.C. officials late into Wednesday night according to sources, hammering out the details of a 30-page memorandum of understanding that would govern construction and operation of the new stadium. At the meeting, held at the offices of Commissioner Bud Selig, the District's proposal drew support from Council members.

The District's stadium plan -- which still must be approved by the city council -- has moved it clearly ahead of Northern Virginia in the race for the Expos, according to baseball officials. Virginia officials had hoped to lure the Expos to a proposed stadium site near Dulles International Airport.

Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, said Thursday he expects to receive formal notification of a decision by baseball by early next week, because baseball officials know "that we have a clock ticking."

Once the city obtains a signed agreement from baseball stating that the owners have decided to send the Expos to D.C., Tuohey said, city officials are planning a public announcement at RFK Stadium sometime next week.

The end of next week marks an important deadline for both baseball and the District. Baseball's regular season ends on Oct. 3, and Selig has a long-standing policy banning major announcements during the postseason, which runs until early November.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams's office must submit legislation to authorize the stadium financing package to the city council by next Friday in order to win approval and begin renovations on RFK Stadium, where the team would play for at least two seasons as a new stadium is built.

"We've told baseball we have to introduce the legislation by next Friday," Tuohey said. "We're not going to short-circuit any of the public comment periods. [The council does] not want to do this on an emergency basis. . . . We're going to introduce it by [next] Friday, and we intend to."

Angelos, who believes a team in Washington would harm the Orioles, left the meeting without speaking to reporters. Reached Thursday night by phone, he said, "I have no comment."

According to the source with knowledge of the meeting, Angelos's presentation to his fellow members on the Executive Council arguing against the move lasted about 15 minutes and was met with some support. San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, both of whom have similar territorial concerns as Angelos, are believed to be sympathetic to his concerns.

However, while none of the other candidates -- Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., Norfolk, and Monterrey, Mexico -- were formally eliminated, the majority of Council members expressed the belief that baseball has little choice but to move the team to Washington and deal with Angelos, sources said.

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