Virginia is still in the running to host the Montreal Expos, despite the swirl of activity surrounding the District's bid, backers of the state's effort said yesterday.
Representatives from the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, Loudoun County, an investment group behind efforts to bring a team to Virginia and a development firm that controls the proposed ballpark site beside Dulles International Airport said they have not been told by Major League Baseball that their bid is foundering.
"Nobody at Major League Baseball has called and told us they are leaning one way or another," said Gabe Paul Jr., the authority's executive director. "I have no idea what the state of our bid is."
Baseball sources have said that the relocation committee is leaning toward recommending the District but that Virginia is still being considered. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has convened a meeting of the game's executive committee for today.
Virginia boosters offered an array of arguments to support their sense that they remain serious contenders. Even if the relocation committee, which is filled with Selig confidants, picks Washington, there is no guarantee that Selig will follow that advice, they pointed out. The continued opposition of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos could complicate plans for a team in the District, they said.
And they dismissed the suggestion that baseball officials are using Virginia as a bargaining chip to pressure the District into sweetening its offer.
"I certainly view it that they are stringing D.C. along as they make the deal with us," one participant said. Another participant added that negotiations with baseball continued yesterday. And Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has spoken with baseball representatives in recent days, his spokeswoman said.
Some offered a broad critique of District plans released this week and claimed that the city's bid posed a risk for baseball and for the region's fans. Paul Shiffman, a longtime member of the Virginia Baseball Club, which hopes to buy the team, said the D.C. Council that takes over in January could conceivably seek to overturn current ballpark plans.
"If the District passes this, and it's reversed, what a quagmire," Shiffman said.
"What happens then? Will it end up in Las Vegas?"
Laurence E. Bensignor, chairman of Diamond Lakes Associates, a development firm and partner in the Virginia bid, said that, unlike his group, the District does not currently control land for its proposed ballpark site.
"It's not like the District has a plan that's teed up and implemented. It's a vision," said Bensignor, who himself ran into trouble acquiring control of much of the land for his broader development vision at the Dulles site.
Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), vice chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, said he is certain the county remains in contention.
"If we were out of it, I would know," Tulloch said.
Staff writer Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.