The two groups seeking a baseball franchise for the capital area will respond separately to the National League's 1993 expansion questionnaire, the groups' leaders said after meeting yesterday.
John Akridge, whose group would like to put a team at RFK Stadium, and Mark Tracz, whose combine would put one at a stadium it hopes would be built in Northern Virginia, met at Akridge's office in the District.
"It was a short meeting," Tracz said. "Very pleasant, but nothing substantive. There is not going to be any merger of our groups, that's for sure."
Akridge and Sovran Bank President Robert Pincus, who also has been helping organize the D.C. group, voiced similar sentiments. "I see two applications," Pincus said.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg area and Miami also are likely to be represented by several potential ownership groups. But the Washington interests had expressed hope of presenting a united front to the National League Expansion Committee, which has set an Aug. 31 deadline for submission of the questionnaires and a $100,000 deposit on the $95 million entry fee. However, Tracz said he and Akridge could not resolve the groups' fundamental difference -- where a Washington team should play its games.
"They are set on a team playing in D.C.," Tracz said. "We think it's a mistake. And there's no sense spending time on a venture when you're fairly convinced it isn't going to work."
Tracz and his allies have said they believe current major league owners do not view RFK Stadium as a viable facility and also would prefer a new ballpark. Tracz's group also believes a franchise in Northern Virginia would fare better financially than one in the District.
But Akridge, who disagrees with that assessment, believes the team should play in an improved RFK Stadium. Nor does he feel the need to merge. "We are pretty close to getting our group together," Akridge said, adding that its goal is to raise $100 million to $125 million in cash.
Baseball sources said Akridge's group hopes to interest the Haft family, which owns the Dart Group, and attorney Donald Dell, who founded the Arlington-based sports management and marketing firm ProServ.
Akridge's group also has a letter of understanding with the D.C. Armory Board for the use of RFK Stadium if it is awarded the franchise.
The District government has been authorized to issue up to $25 million in tax-free bonds that could be used to help finance the conversion of RFK Stadium into a baseball-only facility. Akridge's group and the Armory Board have been working with a stadium construction firm on plans for the project, which Akridge said would cost about $30 million.
The Tracz faction also has expressed interest in RFK, but only on a temporary basis. Tracz said RFK Stadium General Manager Jim Dalrymple has given his group written assurance it could use the facility if it is awarded a franchise. But Dalrymple has said the Armory Board's letter of understanding with Akridge's group currently prevents it from conducting any formal negotiations with Tracz's.
Although "a little saddened" by yesterday's development, Tracz said his group "is not going away." He and his partners have been working hard to acquire the necessary capital without a merger, he said, and will continue to do so. "This is very motivating," he said.
Even if Tracz's group does not submit an application, Akridge's may not be finished dealing with them. Tracz and several members of his group own the Class A Prince William Cannons, the franchise that currently holds the territorial rights to professional baseball in Washington. If Akridge's group is awarded one of the two franchises the NL will add in 1993, it would have to indemnify the Cannons.