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Expos' Move to D.C. on Verge of Collapse


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#1 Cygnus

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 10:46 PM

NEW YORK (AP) - Washington's new baseball team shut down business and promotional operations indefinitely Wednesday as its move to the nation's capital teetered on the brink of collapse.

The decision by major league baseball followed the District of Columbia Council's decision Tuesday night to require private financing for at least half the cost of building a new stadium. The September agreement to move the Montreal Expos to Washington called for a ballpark fully financed by government money.

"Yes, I think baseball is now in jeopardy," Mayor Anthony A. Williams said.

A previously scheduled news conference to unveil new uniforms was called off and fans who bought tickets to watch the renamed Nationals next season at RFK Stadium can get refunds, said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

Baseball will not resume talks with other cities until after Dec. 31, the deadline in the agreement for Washington to put a ballpark financing law in place.

"In the meantime, the club's baseball operations will proceed, but its business and promotional activities will cease until further notice," DuPuy said.

He did not address where the team would play its 2005 home schedule if the deal with Washington falls through. It remains unclear whether baseball would move the franchise to RFK Stadium on a temporary basis, remain at Montreal's Olympic Stadium or go to another city.

Williams had signed the deal nearly three months ago, and publicly celebrated the return of major league baseball to Washington, which hasn't had a team since 1971.

"We had a deal. I believe the deal was broken, and the dream of 33 years is now once again close to dying. I would say close," Williams said at a news conference Wednesday.

Council Chair Linda W. Cropp proposed the amendment, which was approved 10-3 after she threatened to withhold support from the overall package, which then passed In a 7-6 vote.

"I am not trying to kill the deal," Cropp said. "I'm putting some teeth in it because I'm really disappointed with what I got from major league baseball."

The September agreement estimated the cost of building the ballpark and refurbishing RFK Stadium at $435 million, but critics claimed it would cost far more. The proposal, as initially approved by the council on Nov. 30, called for Washington to issue up to $531 million in bonds to cover the cost.

"I am very confident that we are going to be able to work through this and that we will have baseball here," said Councilman Jack Evans, who supported Williams on the original financing plan.

Bill Hall, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission's baseball committee, said, "We intend to deal with MLB's concerns and stadium cost issues in a way that keeps baseball in Washington, and do so over the next week or so."

Some of the communities that had lost out in the bidding for the team prepared to resume their efforts to lure the franchise.

"I don't think we've ever stopped," Norfolk group head Will Somerindyke Jr. said. "We always wanted to keep this area an option. If the opportunity arises for the Expos again, we are going to be standing there along with everyone else.

"Whether we could get something done by next year, I think that's a stretch," he added. "It would be very, very tough."

Somerindyke's organization has returned the deposits it collected on nearly 10,000 season tickets and almost 100 luxury boxes during its drive to get the Expos. He didn't think it would be difficult to get those deposits back.

Officials in Portland, Ore., were uncertain how to interpret the developments.

"We need to wait to see how Major League Baseball assesses this so we can respond," said Drew Mahalic of the Oregon Sports Authority.

Northern Virginia's group had hoped to build a ballpark near Dulles International Airport.

"We hope that the District of Columbia will be able to fulfill the terms of its agreement and succeed in bringing Major League Baseball back to this region," Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority spokesman Brian Hannigan said.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman went to baseball's winter meetings last weekend trying to attract attention to his efforts to lure a team. But he could not offer a firm stadium plan.

"It's just a glint in my eye, at this point," he said.

Washington has lost teams twice before: The original Senators became the Minnesota Twins after the 1960 season and the expansion Senators transformed into the Texas Rangers following the 1971 season.

"Here we are back where we were five years ago - the nation's capital, the center of the world, a city of possibility, aspiration and ambition and opportunity, and a city that cannot do what it says it's going to do," Williams said. "I'm saddened that we can go so far in five years and step back so far in five minutes."

The Expos became the first major league team outside the United States when they started play in 1969, but attendance at Olympic Stadium slumped over the past decade and the franchise was bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season. In 2003 and 2004, some of the team's home games were moved to Puerto Rico to raise revenue.  

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#2 Presto45

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 11:04 PM

Well there goes the nationals  confused13.gif  

#3 anagramking

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 12:22 PM

Hopefully they can figure something out in DC.  What will happen to this team if they don't?  

#4 Brutal Truth

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 12:36 PM

If this falls through, the merchandise will be worth tons in a few years, especially the caps.  I knew I should've got one!   laugh.gif

Edited by Brutal Truth, 16 December 2004 - 12:37 PM.


#5 Presto45

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 08:35 PM

Dammit i didnt get my nationals cap  trink39.gif  yes.gif  

#6 ES-335

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 09:02 PM

poor Expos ...

Maybe they could play in Shea, they don't have a team now. wink.gif  

#7 anagramking

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 11:23 PM

This could be disastrous if the Expos/Nationals don't have a home.  Way to go, Bud.


#8 Presto45

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Posted 17 December 2004 - 07:14 PM

Cant they just get a home confused13.gif   yes.gif  trink39.gif  

#9 Drumnut

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Posted 18 December 2004 - 02:12 PM

Sex Industry Funded Campaign Against New Stadium
Updated: Friday, Dec. 17, 2004 - 9:17 AM

Mark Segraves, WTOP Radio
WASHINGTON - The sex industry funded part of a campaign that opposes the construction of a new baseball stadium on the Anacostia waterfront.

Opponents of a publicly financed baseball stadium spent roughly $50,000, trying to sway public opinion.

In one method used to get their message out, opponents used an automated phone line.

The person on the automated phone call says he's from a group called Friends of the Earth, and he's opposed to a stadium built with public money

Friends of the Earth is part of a coalition called "No D.C. Taxes For Baseball."

And, WTOP Radio has learned up to 20 percent of the $50,000 came from Robert Siegel, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner whose business would have to move to make way for the stadium.

Siegel is a major landowner on the South Capitol stadium site, an area that Siegel calls "D.C.'s unofficial Red Light district."

He owns 11 properties, several of which house gay nightclubs. He also owns a gay porn shop and adult theaters.

He says he's spent $20,000 of his own money to keep from being displaced by a new stadium. The funding includes other efforts he undertook to keep out baseball, including neighborhood signs and lawyer fees.

Some of the money went toward posters and radio ads, including one that ran on WTOP Radio.

Siegel says he's staying in the background because he doesn't want to cloud the issue of baseball with sex.

"No D.C. Taxes For Baseball" tells WTOP it wasn't trying to deceive anyone with its message. The group accepted money from Siegel's legal businesses to make its point.

Other members of "No D.C. Taxes For Baseball" include the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and the Statehood Green Party.

www.wtopnews.com

#10 anagramking

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Posted 18 December 2004 - 05:04 PM

I hate to see the distinction between baseball and politics blurred here.  If we choose to address Drumnut's article, shown on Drudge yesterday, should we change the venue for this topic?  It seems the guy who protested the most happened to own certain businesses, perceived by some to be unsavory ones at that, that operated in the area of where the stadium is supposed to be built.  It does not mean that the whole sex industry is behind this move, only a guy who makes a good living running businesses based on it.  I think anybody who would have businesses that had to be displaced by such an initative would be up in arms.  I will reserve judgment on who is right in this issue.  I need to know more facts to really understand what's going on in DC.  

This reminds me of when Phoenix was getting its team, the Diamondbacks.  Jerry Colangelo was able to get the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to railroad an initiative through a session that allowed for a stadium to be built, and secure bond funding from county residents in the form of added sales tax.  The passage of this initative left such a bad taste in many people's mouths.  It was so bad that none of the members of the County Board were reelected to another term.  This is in part because the voters were not given a say in this issue (unlike with the Arizona Cardinals' proposed new football stadium, which they shoudn't have passed, imho).  The saga of the Diamondbacks continues to unfold.  Colangelo was pushed aside by his investment partners, and the team supposedly has serious financial problems right now.  They got a championship, but making money has been a very hard thing for them to do.  This is because expansion teams don't get to share in TV contract revenues.  They are in the midst of seriously overhauling the club, and I can only hope they figure out a way to be competitive again.  It's very sad for me to see the team get unloaded as it has been.

Owners in the past have tried to blackmail fans (ie taxpayers) and politicians by saying that they'll just move the team and then they'll just have nothing.  Reinsdorf threatened to move the White Sox if there weren't any tax dollars allocated towards a new stadium.  He was able to secure state funding for the new park they play in (also called Comiskey, and lately US Cellular Field).  Had he not gotten the funding, he would have moved the team to the thriving baseball market of Tampa Bay.  Had this happened after the strike, I think the White Sox fans would have let him move the team.  They hate him that much.  Reinsdorf also was able to get a rent rebate from the state should the team fail to reach certain attendance numbers.  The Illinois taxpayers got screwed yet again.

Edited by anagramking, 18 December 2004 - 05:05 PM.


#11 Drumnut

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Posted 18 December 2004 - 06:45 PM

Don't kill the messenger, I just posted the article. I only watch 7 Major League Baseball games a year if the World Series goes 7 games. Baseball to me, is not what it was when I was a kid playing Little League Baseball. no.gif  I became really turned off by the sport during the strike a few years back. Then became a Hockey fan. Now with the Hockey strike/ lockout whatever you want to call it, I've just about had it with professional sports. wacko.gif  

#12 anagramking

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Posted 18 December 2004 - 07:03 PM

I wasn't trying to shoot anybody, Drumnut.  Baseball is great refuge from the mind numbing debates in the Politics section, that's all.  There's a reason I read the sports section first everyday.  I agree with you about what has happened to baseball (and other professinoal sports).  And steroids is the latest chapter in how the game has changed for the worse.  The political issues concerning teams staying or relocating is very relevant, though, and there's certainly nothing wrong with discussing it.  I guess I just braced myself reflexively for a political debate.  Forgive me for that.  

#13 Sodoff Baldrick

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Posted 18 December 2004 - 10:32 PM

Norfolk was in the running for this team. I wonder now if they'll renew their efforts. Sigh.

#14 anagramking

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 08:33 PM

Peter Gammons' article on espn.com said that if the team doesn't play in RFK, they'll likely spend the season in Norfolk.

#15 ES-335

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 08:57 PM

I love sports ... but it is a business and that is more clear today than ever. I am still mad when the Flames left Atlanta for Calgary.  ARUGH!!!!



#16 anagramking

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 09:59 PM

The Thrashers don't make up for it?


#17 anagramking

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Posted 21 December 2004 - 01:41 PM

Looks like the DC Council votes on a new agreement today.  If it passes, they stay in DC.  If not, they have until the end of this year to get a deal done.

#18 Drumnut

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Posted 22 December 2004 - 12:31 AM

D.C. vote paves way for Nationals

WASHINGTON -- For the first time since Major League Baseball announced nearly three months ago that the Montreal Expos were moving to the nation's capital, Washington baseball fans can really say, "Play Ball."
The biggest hurdle was cleared on Tuesday when the District of Columbia Council reversed course and approved ballpark financing legislation, eliminating a provision that for the past week had threatened to scuttle the deal.

"Finally, and at last, all of us have risen above the fray, and the Washington Nationals are rounding third and heading home," Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a prominent backer of returning baseball to the capital, said at a post-Council meeting press conference. "Today's vote was an important vote, but a lot of hard work lies ahead of us. This is an historic day in our city."

The legislation, which passed by a 7-6 margin, only needs to be signed by Williams. His signature should complete the transition of the Expos to the Washington Nationals and put into motion the revisions on which MLB agreed to Monday.

"Major League Baseball is pleased that the Council of the District of Columbia today approved legislation consistent with the terms of our original agreement to have Washington as a home for Major League Baseball," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

mlb.com

#19 anagramking

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Posted 22 December 2004 - 09:53 AM

Looks like a go then.  Anything else that could kill the deal?  I'd hate to see what would have happened had this fallen through.  

#20 Presto45

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Posted 27 December 2004 - 07:51 PM

Nationals are a go, I am going to go to a game definately.  One in Philly and one in DC  yes.gif  trink39.gif  




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