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Presentations underway to decide Expos' future

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Credit: ESPN.com/Associated Press



Thursday, March 20
Presentations underway to decide Expos future
Associated Press


PHOENIX -- Washington offered to pay between 50 and 80 percent of the cost of a new ballpark for the Montreal Expos, and Portland said government financing would cover $300 million for a stadium if the team moves to Oregon.

The District of Columbia and Portland made their presentations Thursday to baseball's committee on the future of the Expos, who were bought before the 2002 season by the other 29 clubs.

Northern Virginia is to address the committee Friday.

All of the top government officials originally scheduled to attend canceled their travel plans, citing the war in Iraq.

But Washington Mayor Anthony Williams and D.C. Council chairman Linda Cropp addressed the committee by video teleconference.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's number-two official, said the committee kept to its schedule "to get it done as rapidly as we can." DuPuy declined to discuss details of the presentations, citing the arrival of the Northern Virginia delegation Friday.

"Both groups were thorough and very well prepared," DuPuy said, adding that the committee will review the presentations and consult with baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Eric Price, Washington's deputy mayor for economic development, and City Councilman Harold Brazil led their delegation at Bank One Ballpark. Price said legislators would attempt to enact legislation to fund a ballpark by July, baseball's target for making a decision on the future on the Expos.

The District also would need Congressional approval for funding, which would include a tax on the salaries of players.

"We walked through a legislative process for them," Price said. "They did ask about that and we told them what it would be."

Washington officials presented research that a team in the nation's capital would not hurt the Baltimore Orioles, who play at Camden Yards, about 40 miles away. They also discussed potential attendance and sales, and they stressed the draw of the capital's cultural and nightlife, and its extensive transportation system.

"We think we showed there is a minimum impact on the Orioles, both from a fan base and a corporate base," Price said.

Bobby Goldwater, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, said after the 2?-hour presentation that Washington officials hoped the committee would tour five potential sites for the ballpark. Washington hopes to build a $400 million stadium, and two of the potential sites are within blocks of the U.S. Capitol.

Portland's David Kahn, leader of the Oregon Stadium Campaign, said his group presented details of about seven ballpark sites and discussed financing.

"I think we all understand they have to be somewhat noncommittal about it," Kahn said.

David Logsdon, Portland's spectator facilities manager, presented a draft financing plan for a $350 million ballpark that would be built with $150 million from the state and $150 million from the city, which would raise its money through a hotel and ticket tax and a charter seat program.

"No public votes would be required," Logsdon said.

But the city council and state legislators would have to approve any public financing measures. Kahn warned that the numbers are ``very fluid'', but said he expected financing legislation to be introduced in the Oregon legislature next week.

Portland's group stressed that Oregon's climate is both warmer and drier than Seattle's, saying there is a misconception about the climate in their city.

"Portland is committed to an urban vision," said Gil Kelley, director of planning.

Baseball's committee also included Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks. Owners want the highest possible percentage of government funding for a ballpark, and want the funding in place before deciding on a move. Northern Virginia has said it prefers a conditional award of the team before seeking new legislation.

Montreal has drawn poorly in recent years at Olympic Stadium, and baseball moved 22 of the Expos' 81 home games this season to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in an effort to raise attendance and revenue.
 

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