The Milwaukee Brewers could be headed to Charlotte, a possibility that the leaders of the effort to secure a major league baseball team for Northern Virginia believe would aid their attempt to purchase and relocate the Houston Astros.

The Brewers have been unable to get final approval on a financing plan for a proposed $250 million stadium in Milwaukee. A bond issue was defeated on Friday, leaving the franchise's status more uncertain than ever. The owner of one major league team said that Brewers owner Bud Selig has been exploring the possibility of a move to Charlotte if a new stadium in Milwaukee is rejected.

Selig, baseball's acting commissioner, plans to meet with Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson soon, and those familiar with the situation say that the Brewers' fate could be decided within the next month. Selig declined to discuss the specifics of a possible move today, but he said the franchise cannot remain in Milwaukee without a new ballpark.

"This is a situation where a club wants to stay where it is," Selig said from Milwaukee. "I've spent the last 32 years of my life trying to make baseball work here in Milwaukee. But we can't stay here without a new stadium. You're looking at a process that is now completely political. We've had to jump through hoops like no team has ever had to do. It's very frustrating. That's why you're seeing such an outpouring of emotion for the Brewers here right now."

The leaders of the Northern Virginia partnership headed by telecommunications executive William Collins III are waiting to make another try this fall to buy the Astros and move them to the area, though finding a stadium site has proved difficult. Yesterday Arlington joined three other Northern Virginia counties in dropping out of the competition, prompting the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority to consider inviting private land owners to offer sites.

Collins had a tentative deal with Astros Chairman Drayton McLane last year to purchase the franchise for $150 million to $160 million, but baseball's leaders opposed the proposed relocation and the matter never reached a vote of the other owners. Those involved with Collins's efforts apparently believe that they would have far less trouble getting the required approval, however, if prospective moves by the Astros and Brewers were to be considered simultaneously this winter.

"If there's something in it for both leagues, I don't see how anyone will be against it," one person involved in the Northern Virginia baseball effort said. A baseball official responded: "That's probably a good interpretation."

A move by the Brewers to the Washington area would be extremely unlikely, for the Baltimore Orioles could block another American League team from relocating to the region.

Meanwhile, baseball's labor negotiations resumed today in New York. Management officials have threatened to return to court to unilaterally impose a new economic system for the sport if there's not significant progress in negotiations by the all-star break next month. But ownership sources said today they're optimistic that the long-awaited breakthrough in bargaining could be near. The major obstacle to a settlement remains an agreement on the particulars of taxing teams' player payrolls. In their most recent formal offer, the owners proposed a 39.5 percent luxury tax beginning at a $46 million payroll threshold. The Players Association has proposed a 30 percent tax beginning at $64 million. The two sides apparently have agreed that a luxury tax should affect the six clubs with the highest payrolls, but continue to debate how long a tax should remain in effect.

Union chief Donald Fehr said today from New York: "We're continuing to have discussions. If we get close to something, everyone will know about it. I'm not planning any imminent celebrations. {But} if an agreement can be reached, it probably will come with what looks like dizzying suddenness."

CAPTION: Brewers owner Bud Selig says his franchise must get a new stadium in order to remain in Milwaukee.