Baseball on the horizon in D.C.

GW alumnus Bill Collins hopes the Washington, D.C. area will have a Major League Baseball team by next spring. But right now he’s playing the waiting game.

“I don’t know if we can use the words ‘cautiously optimistic,’ but we’ve provided what major league baseball has needed,” said Collins, the Chairman and C.E.O. of the Virginia Baseball Club, an ownership group that plans to purchase the Montreal Expos and relocate them to Northern Virginia. “At this point we’re waiting just like everybody else.”

The Virginia Baseball Club is one of two D.C. area ownership groups vying for the Expos. Collins’ group is pushing for a stadium Northern Virginia, while the D.C. contingent desires a downtown site.

Winston Lord, Executive Director of the Washington Baseball Club, is optimistic that downtown D.C., not Northern, Va., will land the Expos.

“I think the city has done a wonderful job working with baseball (trying to bring a team to D.C.)” he said.

However, at last week’s owners’ meetings in Philadelphia, the MLB Relocation Committee failed to announce where the financially strapped franchise will be playing its home games next season. But according to an Aug. 19 Washington Post report, MLB president and chief operating officer Robert A. DuPuy said talks with potential suitors could soon heat up.

“Eventually, these discussions are going to have to evolve to a point where either we say or the municipality or government said, ‘We’re as far as we can go. This is the deal that we’ve got before us.’ And we’ll go from there,” DuPuy told the Post.

Washington and Northern Virginia are two of six relocation sites the Relocation Committee is considering. Norfolk, Va.; Monterrey, Mexico; Las Vegas and Portland, Ore. are the others.

The D.C. area has been mentioned as a leading contender for the team in multiple recent news reports. But as of last week, DuPuy did not name a frontrunner to land the Expos, a team collectively owned by all 29 major league teams.

If the Expos moved to Washington for the 2005 season, it would be the first time a major league team played in D.C. since the 1971 season, the last year the Senators played at Southwest D.C.’s RFK Stadium before moving to Texas to become the Rangers.

Under the Virginia Baseball Club’s proposal, the team would play its home games at RFK for at least a year while a new stadium is being constructed at a site adjacent to Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County, Va. He said the project would cost $360 million and be financed partly by his ownership group and partly by the state of Virginia.

Having a major league baseball team playing at RFK could be very appealing to GW students, who normally would have to make the roughly 40-mile trek to Baltimore to see a professional game.

Collins, a collegiate baseball player and member of the GW Athletic Hall of Fame, was a Colonial from 1968-72, when the Senators played at RFK. He said he saw about 20 games per season during those years.”

“RFK is an outstanding facility,” Collins said. “With all the colleges you have in this area, students would be able to be involved, especially in September and October during the (pennant) races.”

The D.C. contingent also plans to utilize RFK Stadium but wants to build a permanent home downtown financed partly by the city and partly by the new owners. Possible locations include a site behind Union Station at the intersection of New York and Florida Avenues, a site adjacent to RFK Stadium, and a site near L’Enfant Plaza in Southwest.

“The positives of D.C. locations is that they are all downtown and Metro accessible,” Lord said. “If you look at some of the statistics, you’ve got 1.8 million people living in the 10-mile radius of the stadium.”

According to Lord, 65 percent of fans that attend Wizards and Capitals games at the MCI Center use the Metro. Lord also said a downtown stadium is the right location because it’s the “center of the region”, accessible to fans who live in the District and in Northern Va.

There is no doubt at least a temporary stay in D.C. proper would please local baseball fans, but Collins’ group chose Northern Virginia area as the team’s final destination for a one main reason: a potentially large, family centered fan base from the suburbs, not downtown.

“The problem with the city is they absolutely have to depend on the suburbs, that’s where all the fans will be coming from,” said Collins, who cited the Wizards and the Capitals as D.C. teams with suburban fan bases.

The biggest opposition to a team in D.C. or Northern, Va. could be Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has said his team would be affected financially by the relocated franchise.

“(The D.C. area and Baltimore) are two distinct markets,” Collins said.

For now, no decision has been made on the Expos, but there is no rush, Lord said.

“There hasn’t been a team in D.C. for over 30 years,” he said. “We want to make sure we do it right.”

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