Commissioner Bud Selig received an update from Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy yesterday on the progress of a committee that is examining possible sites for the relocation of the Montreal Expos, but DuPuy said last night that no decisions have been made.
"I met with the commissioner and advised him of the various meetings we have had with interested communities over the past several weeks and briefed him on the additional materials we had received," DuPuy said in an e-mail following the meeting in Selig's office in Milwaukee. "We discussed each of the candidates in detail, and I elaborated on the various meetings and calls of the relocation committee."
Sports Illustrated and USA Today reported yesterday that the relocation committee was leaning toward recommending Washington, D.C., or Northern Virginia as the Expos' new home. However, the panel has not made its final recommendation and the ultimate decision lies with Selig, who as baseball commissioner wields enormous authority.
Although Washington-Northern Virginia is an attractive market, the presence of the Baltimore Orioles less than an hour away remains a major hurdle to the two local bids. Selig has said he does not want to put a team too close to an existing franchise, fearing it would drain resources from both clubs. Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is close to Selig, strongly opposes a team in the Washington metropolitan area.
In addition to the District and Northern Virginia, the Expos franchise, which is owned by the other 29 baseball teams, also is being sought by Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk; Portland, Ore.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Unlike last year, when the pace of discussions slowed considerably near midseason and ultimately shut down, baseball has been working steadily in recent weeks. People involved in the process in the District and Northern Virginia said they believe that baseball intends to meet its goal of making an announcement sometime after the July 13 All-Star Game in Houston.
One possible scenario has been to put the team in Loudoun County, where supporters contend it would be far enough away from the Orioles to reduce the harm to the team. The Virginia Baseball Club last month proposed building a $360 million stadium as part of a new residential and commercial development near Dulles International Airport. But Angelos has said he opposes the idea.
A D.C. official involved in discussions with baseball said the two sides have been exchanging information regularly since a May 6 meeting in which Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) formally proposed a fully funded ballpark near RFK Stadium and three other sites in the District requiring rent payments of $5 million or less. The official declined to say what information was requested but he believed the activity suggested that baseball was moving toward a decision in late July or early August.
The Washington locations include the RFK site, New York Avenue, the Southeast Waterfront on M Street and a site across from L'Enfant Plaza in Banneker Park in Southwest Washington. The Banneker site has attracted the most interest from baseball.
Virginia's state and local officials said yesterday that they have not received any firm indication from baseball that they are leaning toward locating the Expos at the proposed site near Dulles.
"I've heard nothing from the relocation committee," said Michael Schewel, the state's secretary of commerce and trade. "I have no idea where they might be leaning."
Officials at the Virginia baseball Stadium Authority declined to reveal any information about their contacts with baseball, but they said they are optimistic.
"We think we've made a very convincing case," said spokesman Brian Hannigan. "Our partnership with the Loudoun County board and the development group has demonstrated that we can make a fabulous new home for baseball in Northern Virginia."
Hobie Mitchel, the president of the development group that wants to build the Dulles town center, declined to comment on conversations he has had with baseball officials.
"We have a very good proposal," Mitchel said. "It doesn't require any local taxes. It doesn't require any more General Assembly action. We have a fully financed stadium and a site. All we need is the team."
Staff writers Mike Shear and Steve Fainaru contributed to this report.