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Sept. 20, 2004

Baseball and Washington: a winning combination

by Alex Mazerov, Page Editor
First it was the winter of 2002. Then the 2003 All-Star break. Then Labor Day 2003. Then this year’s All-Star break in July. But now it seems as if the decade-old debate over where to relocate the financially floundering Montreal Expos will finally come to fruition. This time, the chronic deadline-postponing executives of Major League Baseball promise a decision by the World Series in October. The front runners for the Expos’ future home are Washington, D.C.—the country’s largest market without an MLB team—and Northern Virginia. The other potential cities for relocation are Norfolk, Virginia, Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas and Monterrey, Mexico; but a ballclub in downtown D.C. is the obvious choice.

A stadium in Washington would be much more convenient than one in the Virginia suburbs. In July, a reporter for The Washington Times commuted on three separate nights to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the likely Washington and Northern Virginia stadium locations, on the Anacostia waterfront near RFK stadium and Loudon County, respectively, starting from a location in suburban Maryland. It took him less than an hour to drive to the Orioles’ ballpark in Baltimore, 36 minutes to take the Metro to RFK in southeast D.C. and more than an hour to get to Loudon County. The location in D.C would be accessible by public transportation, a convenience that is sure to draw many fans.

Residents of the greater Washington area support a local team, according to a survey commissioned by D.C. officials. The poll, conducted last August, of 919 baseball fans 18 and older in the District, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, found that 82 percent prefer a ballpark in D.C. over one in Loudoun County. Fans surveyed said they would attend fewer games in Loudoun mainly due to its inconvenient location and lack of public transportation, according to The Washington Post.

Furthermore, Washington has a baseball stadium ready for play next spring, a perk not available at any of the other possible relocation cities. The new D.C. team could play at RFK—a ballpark designed for baseball and the home of the Washington Senators ballclub before it relocated to Texas three decades ago—until a new stadium is built.

The only obstacle blocking this perfectly sensible and clear-cut move is Baltimore Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos, who insists that a franchise in Washington would jeopardize the Orioles’ financial stability. He asserts that the market does not exist for two MLB teams in the Baltimore-Washington area, and that the move would result in two economically weak franchises. However, the Baltimore-Washington market contains a half-million more people than the Oakland-San Francisco area, where the Giants and Athletics are on pace to draw 3.2 million and over 2 million fans, respectively, this season. Granted, both Bay Area teams have done well in recent years. But if the Orioles and a D.C. team are both successful in the standings, there is no reason why both can’t thrive economically as well.

Many advocates of relocating the Expos to a location in D.C. fear that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, eager to appease the Orioles’ owner, will settle on a team in Northern Virginia, a location that practically guarantees a financial loser, according to The Wall Street Journal. The fan base in the D.C. metropolitan area is twice as large as it is 25 miles from the city in Loudon, where the Virginia team would play.

The MLB relocation committee is expected to recommend the Expos be relocated to Washington. That essentially leaves the final decision up to Commissioner Selig. He should avoiding pandering to the griping Orioles owner, listen to the fans and restore America’s pastime to our nation’s capital.

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  • CK on September 20, 2004
    The Orioles will be just fine if they win
    many games and/or sell Oriole Park out more
    often. Their fans love them and are closer to
    Baltimore than to DC. NYC, Chicago, the Bay
    Area, and LA-Anaheim have two fine MLB teams, and DC is now a better market than
    when MLB left it in 1971. MLB and Angelos
    must be firmly stood up to.

    RFK Stadium has many seats, much parking, and
    a subway stop. Sky boxes can be added. RFK is
    only 43 years old, unlike Yankee, Fenway, and
    Wrigley Parks! RFK can and should be used for
    more than a proposed three seasons!!

    MLB aside, Washington DC will hurt if/when
    RFK is torn down. RFK has great history and a
    majestic roof. RFK is unique. Everyone should
    love her. Thank you.

  • Beth on September 20, 2004
    I know that I am a very loyal Orioles fan, and I would still go to Orioles games even if there was a team in DC.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on September 20, 2004
    The Bay Area cant support two teams; Oakland's gonna have to move. THe two other markets you said are far bigger than DC; New York is the largest city in the US, LA 2nd, Chicago 3rd. Baltimore is the 17th largest city, DC 21st. That's smaller than Charlotte, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and San Antonio.
  • 05 on September 20, 2004
    What other markets?
  • Peter on September 21, 2004
    D.C. is larger than many major citites though such as Miami, Seattle, NASHVILLE, CHARLOTTE, Portland Orgegon, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Kansas City, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Tampa, St. Louis, etc.

    The D.C. metro area is the 4th largest in the U.S. That is a reason why the D.C. Baltimore area can support 2 teams. Look at the Redskins, and Ravens who both sell out their games every sunday. D.C. is way better than any of the other cities bidding for a team, and is a perfect place for Baseball
  • Todd (View Email) on September 21, 2004
    I live in Northern Virginia (Arlington)and I will not support a team in Northern Virginia, but would definitely support a DC Team. Louden County is too far out especially with rush hour traffic and no public transportation. It makes no sense to have a team out there.
  • Sherman (View Email) on September 21, 2004
    The Orioles and Washington Senators III can
    do what the Cubs and Whitesox do. When one
    team is at home the other one is on the road.

    Besides, every year with inter-league play there will be 6 games between the two.

    Whether Washington is a baseball town remains to be seen. Once the newness wears off of going to a new ballpark what then?

    The Whitesox should have moved instead of rebuilding their stadium in a dangerous part of the city. They built their stadium on the cheap. The A's should move as well to

  • Alan (View Email) on September 22, 2004
    Good article on Baseball returning to DC!
  • Aaron on September 22, 2004
    Michael Bushnell, how can you say that the A's are going to have to move? They are selling out fairly consistently and have one of the best fan bases in baseball.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on September 24, 2004
    Oakland never sells out, Aaron. The stadium is a concrete dump made for football and they don't make any money.
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