Baseball likely to make D.C. wait another year

The chances of the Montreal Expos relocating to D.C. seem better than ever as the 2003 baseball season winds down, but the chances of that happening for the 2004 season are becoming more minuscule by the day.

The District’s two chief rivals for the Expos, northern Virginia and Portland, Ore., both suffered huge setbacks this summer when public financing plans for new stadiums were rejected. Arlington’s county board reiterated its opposition to a stadium at the end of July, while the Oregon senate voted against a $150 million finance package in late August.

This leaves Washington as the leading, and perhaps only, viable candidate. While the District has no public financing plan officially set, D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commissioner Bobby Goldwater said the attitude in Washington is different from that of its rivals.

“In the District right now, people aren’t talking about ‘if’ there should be some element of public financing,” he said. “They’re talking about ‘when’ and ‘how.’ And that’s a big difference.”

Aside from finalizing such a plan, D.C. representatives have little to do now but wait. They made their initial pitch to Major League Baseball’s Relocation Committee when they traveled to New York in May and then hosted the committee in D.C. on June 20, at which point a more detailed presentation was made.

Since then, however, the District has been left waiting by the phone.

“When we last met with Major League Baseball, we told them there’s nothing else for us to present,” Goldwater said. “We have to wait to hear back from you. We need something from you to know what the next steps should be.”

But as September begins, the phone remains silent and Major League Baseball made the 2004 schedule this past week with all 81 of the Expos home games listed in Montreal.

While that could be changed, Gene Orza, associate general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association, told the Washington Post that any chance of the Expos relocating for the 2004 season is “probably as remote as it can be.”

Goldwater said he understands the long process because baseball has other things to do and this is obviously an important decision. But the continued delay is less than ideal for the city.

“Obviously the longer they wait, the more difficult it would be to do relocation in the best possible way,” he said. “From the Sports and Entertainment Commission point of view, people will be looking for us to get RFK (Stadium) ready, and we’ve always been hopeful that we wouldn’t have to do that in a spire drill mode. But we’re prepared to do it if we’re called upon to do so.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.