The D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission is close to completing a lease agreement for the future home of the Washington Nationals, which would open the way for Major League Baseball to name an owner in the next few weeks.
"We are working on the lease and should be done shortly," Mark Tuohey, chairman of the commission, said yesterday.
Tuohey declined to name a specific date for completion, but said he hopes to have the lease in place by early September, in time for baseball to announce an owner.
MLB President Robert DuPuy said this week that the league, which owns the Nationals, wants the lease agreement for the new stadium to be completed before the team is sold. DuPuy has said he hopes to name an owner by Labor Day and to transfer ownership by Oct. 1.
The city has agreed to build a $535 million baseball project along the Anacostia River. The facility is scheduled to open in April 2008.
There are eight bidders who have said they will pay between $350 million and $450 million for the team, which MLB's 29 owners purchased for $120 million in February 2002.
Baseball wants the agreement in place so the team's new owner knows the exact conditions under which they are buying the franchise. The lease will lay out in detail such key issues as how much the Nationals will pay the city for use of the stadium, which stadium revenue the team can keep for itself and who will be responsible for what parts of the facility.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said the council might not be required to take action on the lease agreement since the city will be collecting money, not spending it. The council is required to vote on any contract in which the city pays $1 million or more.