WASHINGTON -- The proposed move of the Montreal Expos to Washington passed its biggest hurdle Tuesday when the District of Columbia Council reversed
course and approved a ballpark financing law that eliminated a provision that threatened to scuttle the deal.
Major league baseball, which had threatened to scuttle the move last week, said the revised legislation was acceptable.
For the Expos' move to Washington to become final, the law must be signed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a prominent backer of returning baseball to
the capital, and baseball commissioner Bud Selig must declare arrangements to use RFK Stadium next year are "satisfactory."
"We can now focus our attention on bringing baseball back to Washington this coming season," Selig said. "To that end, the club may now resume its
business and promotional activities."
Baseball had put the move on hold last week after the council inserted a provision that mandated private financing to cover at least half of the cost
of the project, estimated at $435 million or more. If private financing was not found, according to last week's amendment, the law would have been
After an amendment was passed Tuesday calling for Washington and baseball to share the cost for insurance limiting the city's liability on cost
overruns and completion delays, the council voted 10-3 to repeal the so-called "sunset" provision. The council then voted 7-6 to approve the revised
As part of the deal, baseball waived its right to compensatory damages for the first year if the 41,000-seat ballpark is finished late. Instead, the
renamed Washington Nationals would not have to pay rent for RFK Stadium in 2008.
Council Chair Linda W. Cropp said the changes could save the city more than $193 million. Others on the body disagreed.
"No one has answered why Major League Baseball can't pay," said Councilman Adrian Fenty, who called it a "horrible deal."
"That's what I keep hearing from residents: Why can't these owners pay their fair share?" Fenty said.
Councilman Jack Evans, who backed baseball from the start, said it was time to move forward.
"It's fun being the Lone Ranger. It's fun always being the guy against. But at this point in time, it's time we come together and get behind this,"
The compromise came after Cropp and Williams talked to Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, who negotiated by telephone from New York.