The Long Goodbye There's no set date for the Expos to leave Montreal, but bidding on the club has officially opened

February 03, 2003

Next time a telemarketer interrupts dinner, don't curse: He could
be offering you a major league team. This month former San
Antonio mayor Nelson Wolff got a cold call from Corey Busch, head
of the relocation committee appointed by baseball commissioner
Bud Selig to find a new home for the Montreal Expos. Busch had a
question: Is San Antonio interested in the Expos? "I was
surprised and pleased to get the call," says Wolff, a county
judge who's known as Mr. Baseball in San Antonio for leading the
successful effort to build a stadium for the Triple A San Antonio
Missions in the early 1990s. "But my response was, 'We're still
several years away from being considered a market for major
league baseball.'"

As les Expos get ready for another lame-duck summer, the effort
to relocate them is grinding into gear. This week Selig's
committee will begin meeting with delegations from three
locales--Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Portland--that
are eager for the team. The first step is to secure assurances
from the bidding cities that a ballpark will be built for the
team. Then the committee will worry about finding an owner.
There's no guarantee that the team will have a new home by the
2004 season.

"Baseball hasn't done the best job of selecting markets," says a
league official, mindful of the struggling franchises and
uninviting stadiums in Florida. "You can have the greatest market
and greatest owner, but if you don't have a good venue, the rest
doesn't matter."

To boost the odds of a sweetheart stadium deal, baseball is
scouring the U.S.--and beyond--to drum up candidate cities. In
addition to the three front-runners and San Antonio, the
committee has reached out to officials in Charlotte, and it will
keep tabs on the Expos' 22 games in Puerto Rico this year to
gauge San Juan's suitability as a relocation spot. Mexico City
and northern New Jersey have also been floated as potential
homes. Who'll wind up with the Expos? Here's a look at the top
contenders.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

POPULATION 4.7 million (according to bid officials), largest
without a major league team. STADIUM STATUS Planners have
identified five sites within the District, but there is no firm
commitment for local funding. PROS Washington could offer
baseball its first minority owner: D.C. resident and BET owner
Robert Johnson says he's interested in the Expos. CONS An
outdated image, at least in the eyes of Major League Baseball.
(Bobby Goldwater, president of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment
Commission, says, "One baseball official I spoke to didn't know
Washington has a subway system.") Baltimore Orioles owner Peter
Angelos, who claims his team draws 25% of its fans from the D.C.
area, could start a legal battle to keep a club out of his
backyard. And D.C.'s 42-year-old RFK Stadium, which would be a
temporary home, needs an overhaul for baseball.

BOTTOM LINE Ready for the new Senators? D.C. is the favorite.

NORTHERN VIRGINIA

POPULATION Nearly five million. STADIUM STATUS No site chosen,
and a firm government financing plan has yet to be floated. A
Virginia-based team would also use RFK as a temporary home. PROS
Demographics: Though Northern Virginia is considered part of the
D.C. metro area, planners say a team south of the Potomac will
draw more fans from upmarket Virginia suburbs and fewer from the
Orioles' base in Maryland. Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun
counties, the most likely stadium sites, are among the nation's
wealthiest (in per capita income). And baseball would be the only
game in town--Virginia has no other teams in the Big Four sports.
CONS A massive state budget deficit could undercut public
funding.

BOTTOM LINE An attractive option if the Washington bid falls
apart.

PORTLAND

POPULATION 2.2 million. STADIUM STATUS The team would play in
20,000-seat PGE Park, home of the Triple A Portland Beavers,
until a downtown venue is ready. PROS Despite its image
Portland's summertime rainfall is lower than that of 16 major
league cities. Plus, the Oregon legislature came close to passing
a $150 million stadium funding package in 2001. CONS The Portland
Expos would draw from a smaller fan pool than the
attendance-challenged teams in Detroit, Miami and Tampa.

BOTTOM LINE Portland fans will likely have to make do with the
NBA Trail Blazers and the Beavers.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY FRED HARPER

Got No Game
Here are the 10 largest TV markets without a major league
baseball team, according to Nielsen Media Research.

OVERALL
MARKET TV HOUSEHOLDS RANK

1. Washington, D.C.--Hagerstown, Md. 2,169,230 8
2. Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, Calif. 1,227,600 19
3. Orlando--Daytona Beach--Melbourne, Fla. 1,224,470 20
4. Portland 1,061,080 23
5. Indianapolis 1,019,870 25
6. Hartford--New Haven, Conn. 980,410 27
7. Charlotte 962,540 28
8. Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville, N.C. 929,460 29
9. Nashville 880,670 30
10. Columbus, Ohio 835,780 34

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)