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Council Approves Altered Stadium Deal

Cropp told her council colleagues that if they did not approve her amendment, she would vote against the stadium agreement. The council then approved her amendment by a vote of 10 to 3.

Williams left the John A. Wilson Building without commenting on Cropp's actions and before the council voted on the legislation. A half-dozen police officers formed a cordon to shield him from reporters as he left the council chamber. The officers scuffled briefly with reporters as they tried to follow the mayor into a public hallway leading to his offices.

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) reacts as D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) says she will not support a baseball stadium without private financing. (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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Reporters ultimately cornered the mayor in an elevator and demanded to know why he had taken the unusual step of enlisting the police as reporters tried to question him.

"I don't want to talk to anybody, okay?" Williams said.

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said Cropp's move came as a total shock. "I think it is real bad," he said. "The question is whether it violates the stadium agreement. . . . I think we have given them an opportunity to walk."

The council narrowly gave preliminary approval to the financing legislation two weeks ago, voting 6 to 4 in favor of the stadium, with three members, including Cropp, abstaining. Yesterday, voting in favor of the final legislation were Cropp, Harold Brazil (D-At Large), Evans, Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8).

Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), David A. Catania (I-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) voted against the bill.

If the city and Major League Baseball follow through on the deal, baseball will return to Washington 33 years after the Senators left for Texas. Washington would join 27 other cities with a baseball franchise and add a fifth professional team to go with the Wizards, the Mystics, the Capitals and D.C. United. The Redskins play in Landover.

As the council debated the stadium package during the past month, Major League Baseball began accepting preliminary bids from groups that are interested in owning the team. The estimated $18.5 million renovation of RFK, which will house the team for three seasons, has proceeded slowly as officials waited for the council to act. RFK needs to be ready for the first home game April 14 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The council chambers were packed yesterday, with supporters of the stadium wearing red Nationals hats and white T-shirts while opponents wore light blue caps and shirts bearing the words: "No Stadium Giveaway." Williams and his top aides watched the proceedings at times from the front row.

Even before the council began debating the bill, both sides cheered and booed as council members entered the chambers. Brazil entered wearing a Nationals cap and waving a sign reading: "D.C. Baseball '05." At one point, a man began loudly cursing members who supported the stadium. Police escorted him out of the building.

Supporters of the stadium argued that if the city did not offer to fund it, baseball owners would simply move the team to another city.

"If you want baseball in Washington, you have to support this," Evans said. "Baseball owners want the most money. They don't care about whether they put it in Washington or not. If they did, they would have put it here a long time ago."

But council members who objected to the stadium package continued to rail against it.

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