Selig Schedules Friday Vote on Expos Move

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With or without an agreement with Peter Angelos, baseball appears ready to officially award the Montreal Expos to Washington. <br/><br/>Commissioner Bud Selig scheduled a conference call

Friday, December 3rd 2004, 8:53 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With or without an agreement with Peter Angelos, baseball appears ready to officially award the Montreal Expos to Washington.

Commissioner Bud Selig scheduled a conference call for Friday for a vote by the owners to approve major league baseball's first relocation in 33 years. The vote, originally set for Nov. 18, was delayed in part because Selig had hoped to work out a deal with the Baltimore Orioles owner to ensure a unanimous decision.

``I like 30-0 votes,'' Selig said Thursday after a speech to the Greater Washington Board of Trade. ``But every so often I don't get 30-0 votes.''

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, met with Angelos this week in an attempt to reach an agreement that would protect the value of the Orioles franchise, which Angelos says will be hurt by having a team just 40 miles away. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich said this week the matter could wind up in court.

Selig declined to discuss the negotiations with Angelos, other than to say there was no deal yet.

``We have had a close relationship and we still have a very close relationship,'' Selig said.

The owners' vote was expected to be contingent on District of Columbia Council legislation to fund a new stadium for the Washington team, which would be called the Nationals.

Selig said he was ``very confident'' the council would approve the legislation. The commissioner would not address whether several amendments passed this week _ including a spending cap that could force the stadium to be built elsewhere in the city _ violated the agreement signed in September by the Expos and the city's mayor, Anthony A. Williams.

``As far as I'm concerned, that deal that was made by us with them is a deal,'' Selig said. ``There's no sense in me commenting any more on that because I know that we're going to live up to it, but I also have confidence that they will.''

Selig met for the first time with Council Chair Linda W. Cropp, who has proposed several changes to the original agreement. Selig said the two had a ``very nice social conversation.''

Cropp said Selig did not raise the issue of the spending cap. Cropp has also advocated more private funding for the stadium. On that issue, she said Selig left her with the impression that baseball ``will approach it some flexibility as long as it's a stable revenue stream.''

Williams' agreement with the Expos calls for the city to build a 41,000-seat stadium along the Anacostia River, south of the Capitol. The agreement said the cost of acquiring the land, building the ballpark and refurbishing RFK Stadium would be $435 million. A recent report from the city's chief financial officer put the cost at $530 million.

The council narrowly voted this week to approve financing, but must vote a second time for the measure to become law.

The measure included an amendment requiring the city's chief financial officer to produce a new cost estimate in six months. If it is more than $630 million _ $100 million above his current estimate _ the stadium would have to be built at a less costly site.

The council also approved an amendment requiring the city to invite and consider private financing proposals. Williams contends the bulk of the costs will be covered by an additional tax on businesses that gross more than $4 million annually.

The second council vote is expected Dec. 14. The agreement between the team and the city says the funding plan must become law by Dec. 31.

Selig said he plans to ask President Bush to throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the Washington team plays its home opener against Arizona at RFK Stadium on April 14. Bush is a former owner of the Texas Rangers _ who were the expansion Washington Senators before moving following the 1971 season.

Selig also said he hopes the Expos, currently owned by the other 29 teams, are sold to a new ownership group by opening day, a timetable that is getting increasingly tight.

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