Legislation to transfer RFK Stadium from the federal government to the District of Columbia, which city officials have said would help bring major league baseball back to Washington, was stalled in the Senate late this week by opposition from Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.).
The House passed the bill in June, and Senate supporters had hoped to get it approved without amendments so it could be sent to the president directly without need for negotiation on two different versions. The Reagan administration supports the transfer legislation.
Congressional aides said Hatfield had the bill removed from a list of noncontroversial measures that the Senate can approve routinely without debate. With Congress trying to wind up its work for this session, such a move would prevent action on it this year unless Hatfield changes his mind.
"If Hatfield doesn't budge, we're done," said one city official, who asked not to be named. "We are pretty upset about the way things went down," he said, particularly because the objection came so late in the session after the measure had been reviewed and approved by two Senate committees, including one on which Hatfield sits.
Hatfield "has problems with the transfer of federal land that has been . . . part of the original L'Enfant plan" for Washington as the capital city, said Hatfield staff aide James Hemphill. Hatfield is "100 percent in favor of a baseball team for the city," Hemphill added. "He wants to work with them city officials to make it a reality."
The federal and city governments split the $19.8 million cost of construction of RFK Stadium, built in 1961, and the District paid for an additional $12.8 million in interest costs, but it is owned by the federal government and operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
City officials have said that District ownership of the stadium would help their campaign for a baseball team because they would have more authority to make commitments regarding renovations and operation of the facility.
The District had hoped to get the bill passed in time for the major league baseball owners' meeting in San Diego this week, where cities wanting teams were making their pitches for expansion. But the owners ended their meeting without any announcement or commitment on expansion, making Senate passage this year less important.
Still, city officials were hoping to get the matter settled this year.
City officials took care of concerns voiced last week by Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) about the possibility of a master lease being awarded to one team owner when they promised to require that the City Council approve any such master lease.