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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Expos Say...

Major League Baseball is still looking for a new place to put the Expos. Quite naturally, they want taxpayers somewhere to foot most of the bill.

The top sites under consideration is, of course, are in the District and in Loudoun County near Dulles Airport.

The Loudoun County site would be a nightmare in many ways. If you're in Washington, and suburban Maryland, Arlington, or Alexandria, the Dulles area isn't much easier to reach during weekday rush hour than Baltimore is with a car. If you don't have a car, Baltimore is actually an easier trip, and would be until the Metro extension to Dulles is completed, which is at best several years away. Walkup traffic would be negligible in any case, and most people who worked in Washington would go to one or two weeknight games per year, the way they go to Baltimore now. A stadium would bring little other than traffic to that area, since at a suburban ballpark, people tend to come and park their cars and then simply leave right afterwards. Unfortunately, that area seems to be the only one in Northern Virginia that wants a stadium, as Arlington and Alexandria, which have easy access to downtown Washington, would make good stadium sites to attract people from the District, have both made it clear neither is interested.

Washington itself would be a good site for a baseball franchise. The factors that led to baseball leaving town have changed markedly, and likely for good. There is money in the city now, and the success of the MCI Arena indicates that a stadium in or near downtown could be a good idea. That said, the city is already a tourist trap and isn't presently starving for reasons to bring suburbanites and tourists downtown, so it's in a better bargaining position vis-a-vis sports ownership in other cities. Given all of its budgetary problems, its structural deficits, and the fact that the city can't keep its streets and neighborhoods clean or safe, it would be a mistake to throw the kind of money at Major League Baseball they probably want. Furthermore, it's so painfully obvious that Washington is the place to put the team, it probably serves the city well to drive a hard bargain.

Reportedly, the other two sites under strong consideration are Norfolk, Virginia and Las Vegas, which are way suboptimal, in addition to being smaller than the market they would be leaving, Montreal. The Hampton Roads area consists largely of transplants (heavy military presence) and is highly transient, the same issues that deep sixed two previous franchises in Washington, but lacks Washington's size, affluence, and transit network. Las Vegas be a fast-growing area, but it consits mostly of transplants, isn't especially affluent, and would be by far the smallest media market in MLB. For all of the shortcomings of Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina, they'd be better choices for the Expos than Las Vegas or Norfolk.

Of course, if it were really up to me, I'd put the team in...New Jersey. But that's a story for another time.


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