The announcement by Major League Baseball of the intention to relocate the Montreal Expos to the District of Columbia achieves the objective established by the Virginia Baseball Club over a decade ago -- the return of baseball to the national capital area.
Over the course of the last 11 years, we strongly believe that the Virginia Baseball Club has been the driving force behind the resurrection of our area as a potential market for Major League Baseball. We have kept hope alive in this area during a time when our market was simply not on Major League Baseball's radar screen.
Our partnership still strongly believes that the guaranty for the long-term success of this franchise would be achieved at a location in Northern Virginia, at the economic and demographic epicenter of this market, in the nation's fastest-growing county. The support we have received from the people of Loudoun County and the many local government officials who have stood behind us have provided encouragement and validation of our effort.
We recognize and appreciate the support of Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) and the rest of the board; Sens. George Allen (R-Va.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.); Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.); Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore and Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). We also want to express our deep appreciation to our partners at Diamond Lake Associates, who shared our vision of a unique ballpark.
The withdrawal of the Commonwealth of Virginia from backing the stadium bonds that were expressed as the will of the General Assembly in the financing plan enacted into law in 1995 eliminated the relocation of Major League Baseball to Virginia. After this critical aspect of our plan was stripped from our proposal, the Virginia Baseball Club stepped up to provide political and financial certainty by guaranteeing the financing and construction of the new ballpark in Virginia. Unfortunately, it was too late, and Virginia has lost the most significant economic opportunity in a decade.
In contrast, the District of Columbia presented Major League Baseball with the most generous ballpark financing packaging in recent times. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his administration should be congratulated.
We thank the many fans who have stood with us in our effort, especially the Virginians for Baseball Fan Club, the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority and the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, as well as all of the people who poured their hearts and souls into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Virginia.
-- WILLIAM L. COLLINS III
After a 33-year absence, Major League Baseball has finally announced plans to return the national pastime to the national capital area. While the decision was not what we in Virginia had worked so long and hard for, this was a great day for baseball and for everyone in Washington, Northern Virginia and the rest of the region.
I congratulate D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his staff and Chairman Mark Tuohey and the rest of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission on their successful effort. This has been a spirited competition. But we have always considered our Washington counterparts to be friendly rivals, and we can all be proud of the mutual respect displayed on both sides of the Potomac throughout this process.
The Expos will play at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium next season! I urge all Virginia baseball supporters and fans to give their full support to our region's new team. We must all put aside our differences and work together to make the Expos succeed and to demonstrate what we so strongly believe -- that this can be one of the strongest baseball markets in the nation.
I want to thank all those who have supported Virginia baseball over the years. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William L. Collins III and the Virginia Baseball Club have worked tirelessly and spent many millions of dollars in this difficult effort, and I hope Major League Baseball recognizes their contributions. Our stunning Dulles-area ballpark proposal would not have been possible without the vision and commitment of our Diamond Lake Associates development partners.
The stadium authority's two staff members, Brian Hannigan and Sheryl Elliott, have served Virginia's effort extremely well under often challenging circumstances, and its members have volunteered their valuable time and talents to this effort since 1995. They all helped to make our ballpark proposal an outstanding option for Major League Baseball.
Finally, to all Virginia baseball fans, thank you for your wonderful support. I look forward to sharing the enjoyment of our region's new Major League team with you in 2005 and beyond.
-- GABE PAUL JR.
The effort to bring Major League Baseball to Northern Virginia was led by William L. Collins III, right, chairman and chief executive of the Virginia Baseball Club, and Gabe Paul Jr., executive director of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority. Here are their views on why Northern Virginia lost baseball to the District and what baseball will mean to the Washington area.