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Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 03 October 2004 12:00
The key question being asked by MLB's spurned suitors in Portland, Las Vegas, and other cities: Is there is gas left in the tank for future relocation or expansion for those that didn’t win the Expos?

By Maury Brown

How Northern Virginia went from highly favored to NoVa

If the Washington team is successful, few will remember years from now that it could have been quite the opposite.

Arlington County kills hope for Pentagon City

"If there was a general consensus that a Baseball Stadium was desired by Arlington residents, it might be possible to overlook the economic advantages of competing development opportunities," County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson wrote VBSA Chairman Michael R. Frey in the letter. "It is the judgment of the County Board that although there are numerous supporters of the baseball stadium concept, there are at least as many opposed with little hope of reaching consensus with the opposition."

Not content to leave it at that, Ferguson got a last dig in on the Lords, "The arrogance of Major League Baseball is unbelievable."

Along came Dulles

VBSA also claimed to have the full support of the Loudoun County government, as well as a pending contract to buy part of the needed land. It made for good PR, but it was really nothing but smoke and mirrors. Major League Baseball had always been played in urban settings, and Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards provided the template for renewed interest in downtown ballparks after decades of dominance by cookie-cutter, multipurpose venues built in the 1960s and 1970s.

House Speaker William Howell, Senate Finance Chairman John Chichester, and Governor Mark Warner kill VBSA's chances

A House Finance subcommittee voted not to extend the Virginia Stadium Authority's right to those revenues to 2008, as proposed in House Bill 50. Therefore, on December 31, 2004, those key funds would dry up. It was now or never for Virginia baseball.

House Speaker William Howell had voted in favor of the creation of the VBSA in 1995. He changed his tune on August 11, saying that he would not vote in favor of using the state’s “moral obligation” to back the construction bonds. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as MLB had finally decided to get cracking and had scheduled back-to-back meetings with the Washington and Northern Virginia groups. The meeting with D.C. went 11 1/2 hours, an ominous sign for Virginia.

Six days later, MLB made it official. DC had been awarded the Expos. The Northern Virginia bid had failed. Bill Collins blamed Virginia's top government officials: "The withdrawal of the moral obligation of the Commonwealth of Virginia to stand behind the stadium bonds, expressed as the will of the General Assembly in our financing plan which was enacted into law in 1995, eliminated the relocation of Major League Baseball to the Commonwealth," Collins said. "After this critical aspect of our plan was stripped from our proposal, the Virginia Baseball Club stepped up to provide political and financial certainty by guaranteeing the financing and construction of the new ballpark in Virginia.

"Unfortunately, it was too late in the process and Virginia has lost the most significant economic opportunity in a decade."

Edited by John Ruoff and Gary Gillette.

 
 
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