Rounding third

Talk of bringing baseball back to the D.C. metropolitan area is getting serious as Major League officials interviewed local politicians and civic leaders last week. The interviews are being held to see which city is worthy of being the future home of the Montreal Expos – a team dying a slow death.

Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and to a much lessor extent Portland, Ore. are the alleged front runners to buy the floundering franchise. A decision is expected by July’s All-Star break.

Virginians learned just this week that a local stadium may cost at least $400 million rather than the $300 million estimated in 1996. The story from the Virginia Stadium Authority and the State Capitol is that a third of the cost will come from the prospective owner – former telecommunications executive William L. Collins III. The rest is supposed to come from taxes on tickets, player salaries and hot dogs and beer sold at the stadium. There’s also an extra $1 million or $2 million in annual infrastructure costs that will have to be paid for by the commonwealth.

While Washington’s plan has held a high profile, specifics on funding for a stadium in that city have yet to surface, though a handful of possible sites have been announced. They could probably tax income taxes or place extra fines on people who pay parking fines to fund a stadium.

Some experts say Northern Virginia is in the lead in the Expos sweepstakes but too many questions remain. With a stadium costing $400 million, are we still to believe that Collins will fork over at least $133 million? This is on top of the estimated $300 million his investment group would be expected to pay to purchase the Expos. The personal pager business, where Collins made his money, isn’t exactly a growth industry these days.

What about the stadium site? Will we see a repeat of the Redskins/ Potomac Yards fiasco? And will lawmakers squeeze $2 million out of a cash strapped budget? Will down state lawmakers even go for such a plan?

Site selection for a proposed Northern Virginia stadium has been secretive. Possible stadium sites include Pentagon City where the view beyond center field would include the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. There’s also a preliminary site in Roslyn and near Dulles. The Dulles plan should not be allowed off the drawing board considering traffic problems and no Metro service.

One thing’s for sure. If baseball comes to Virginia, the team better bear a Virginia name. We don’t want the Washington Senators (version 3.0) playing baseball in Arlington in a $400 million stadium funded in part by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Major League Baseball has acted poorly in its dealings with the troubled Montreal franchise. The team has died a slow death while fellow owners turned their backs. The team is now owned by the league itself and owners will get some extra cash if the Expos are sold. Expect a high sale price. That’s the only reason they’re taking interest in the club these days.

The problem is that the economic downturn and the fragile fiscal health of professional baseball has caused perspective buyers to dwindle over the past seven years. Now it looks like baseball may have to settle for Northern Virginia. And that’s taking a chance.

Similar Posts