-- Commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday that he does not want to repeat baseball's past mistakes by moving the Montreal Expos to a new location unless he is confident that a nearby team would not be compromised.
"If my history and experience in the sport has taught me anything, the game from time to time has done some things internally -- moved a team -- which affected another team," Selig told reporters after a two-day owners meeting at Major League Baseball headquarters. "I want to learn by what I think were our sport's errors maybe in the past."
Although the Washington area is one of the wealthiest in the country without a team, Selig has said he is concerned about the potential impact relocating the Expos to the region would have on the Baltimore Orioles. Although some baseball owners have privately said they believe Washington is a logical candidate, Orioles owner Peter Angelos adamantly opposes the move because he said it will cut into his fan base and decrease the franchise's value.
"Baseball back in 1968 didn't take the care it should have when they moved a team into Oakland without assuming what it was going to do to San Francisco," Selig said. "For a long period of time, there was a lot of difficulty as a result of that decision. . . . I don't want to repeat that. You have to use common sense."
The District and Northern Virginia are vying for the financially troubled Expos, whom MLB's 29 other teams purchased for around $121 million. Other areas in the running are Las Vegas; Hampton Roads, Va., near Norfolk; Portland, Ore.; and Monterrey, Mexico. Mayor Anthony A. Williams recently presented the District's stadium and financing plan and Northern Virginia officials say they have completed stadium financing plans.
Officials in Loudoun County said Thursday that they believe backers of Virginia's bid are advancing a plan to build a ballpark near Dulles International Airport. Two county officials said they expect the developer of the site to give them details on the proposal within days.
"It's an outline of the proposal they put forward to Major League Baseball," said Supervisor Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac). "My impression is they've picked the Loudoun County site to pursue."
Selig said he remains confident the Expos will be relocated in time for the 2005 season and plans to meet with the league's relocation committee in the next month to hear their analyses of the bids. His decision on where to move the team is expected by mid-summer, according to baseball officials.
"It's time to get this done," Selig said. "Every market has been very aggressive, has spent a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort."
One possibility for the Washington region is to put a team as far from the Orioles as possible, which makes Northern Virginia attractive. Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority Executive Director Gabe Paul Jr. sent a letter to all MLB clubs this week saying his group has completed funding plans for a stadium near Dulles. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the plan is tied to a Marriott development project, according to an official. Selig said he has not yet reviewed Paul's letter.
Loudoun County Board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) said he understands the project would include the stadium and a large commercial component. But York said the county is seeking confirmation that the site, located near a proposed rail station, has emerged as the likely Virginia location.
"The Dulles site is probably at the top of the list at this point," York said.
Keith Frederick, the Virginia stadium authority's chairman, said his organization has presented Major League Baseball with a revised stadium financing plan that includes several options.
"I think we could put together a project at Dulles that would be very successful. That, among other things, is what we're trying to convince Major League Baseball of right now," Frederick said. "But I'm not going to pinpoint that as the only place, because it's not."
Details of the District's financing package for a new stadium have been a closely held secret. City officials say specifics of the tax package would depend on where a stadium was built.
Cost estimates start at $278 million to build a ballpark on the grounds of RFK Stadium, where the city controls land and there is ample parking. Sites on New York Avenue NE and near the Anacostia waterfront would be more expensive -- in the range of $355 million -- in part because the city would have to purchase most of the land from private owners.
The most expensive site, at $383 million, includes a stadium on a platform straddling Interstate 395 near L'Enfant Plaza. D.C. officials say they plan to pay for the stadium with revenue bonds, financed with three potential sources of revenue: sales taxes on stadium services, including tickets, parking and concessions; lease payments from the new team at sites other than RFK; and a new tax on the city's largest businesses.
Laris reported from Washington.