After a 33-year wait, District Mayor Anthony A. Williamsannounced last week that Major League Baseball Commissioner BudSelig approved the Montreal Expos’ relocation to the nation’scapital.
The news came during a Sept. 29, 4:05 p.m.conference call to Williams, who was surrounded by a roomful ofcity council members and city sports and entertainmentofficials.
“I’m elated,” Williams told the WashingtonPost. “We put a lot of time into this, and it’s finally paidoff.”
Negotiations to find a new home for the Exposhave continued over the last two years. In recent years, the Exposhave lost tens of millions of dollars and own one of the lowestattendance records in baseball.
After receiving the conference call, Districtofficials, including Williams, signed a 30-page memo ofunderstanding that gives their word the city will build a stadiumfor the Expos on South Capital Street with city funds. The Exposofficials have signed the document.
The stadium will cost the city $400 millionand the team will play starting in the 2008 season. This springthey will play in Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, which needs$13 million worth of renovations. The renovations will requirethree months to complete, says to Mark H. Tuohey, chairman of theD.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and the city’s point manon the Expos deal.
Williams and District officials have alsopromised residents that the stadium will not cost them one dime.Funding will come from team owners’ fees, taxes on tickets andconcessions and taxes on the city’s largest businesses.
The League considered five other locations,including Northern Virginia, Norfolk, Las Vegas, Portland, Ore.,and Monterrey, Mexico. The unofficial approval came last week at ameeting of Baseball’s executive council meeting in Milwaukee, wherethe District’s bid stood out the most.
Baseball’s 29 owners bought the team for $120million in February 2002 from Jeffrey Loria, current owner of theFlorida Marlins. The Expos lost 9-1 against the FloridaMarlins Wednesday their final game in Montreal.
Williams said he is confident that the cityhas enough support to build the stadium, which will sit on theAnacostia River waterfront. He and District officials outlined apublic education campaign that they hope will galvanize donations.The campaign will emphasize that the stadium will usher inincreased economic opportunities and improved recreation facilitiesfor children.
The team will likely be sold auction-style inthe coming months to the highest bidder.
Mayor Williams said he hopes the teamwill be named the Grays in honor of the Homestead Grays of theNegro League. The Negro league team won nine titles playing inWashington in the 1939 through World War II.