WASHINGTON – District of Columbia leaders announced an agreement Monday night they said would bring a deal to move baseball's Montreal Expos (search) to Washington back from the brink of collapse.
The deal was announced after a day of negotiations between Mayor Anthony A. Williams (search), D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (search) and baseball officials. The council was to vote on the measure Tuesday.
The compromise cuts at least $100 million from the city's overall costs for a 41,000-seat stadium on the Anacostia River south of the Capitol by allowing for private financing. The facility's total cost has been estimated at a minimum $440 million and upwards.
It also splits the liability for cost overruns and missed construction deadlines evenly between the city and Major League Baseball, said Williams spokesman Chris Bender.
Last week, the council approved a Cropp-sponsored requirement that private money cover half the cost of building the park, jeopardizing the team's move. Baseball rejected that provision and halted promotional, marketing and sales operations for the team.
The city faces a Dec. 31 deadline for an agreement to build the stadium as part of a deal with baseball owners to move the Expos here as the renamed Washington Nationals.
Under the accord, Williams' office will keep the council informed on all private funding proposals it receives. In return, Cropp agreed to drop a provision she inserted last week that voids the deal if the city can not find a private donor to pay half the construction costs.
Baseball officials were optimistic that the plan would meet their expectations.
"We remain hopeful that the council will pass legislation consistent with the stadium agreement so we can move forward with the Nationals in D.C.," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, who negotiated by telephone from New York.
The effort to bring major league baseball back to the capital 33 years after the Washington Senators moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to become the Texas Rangers has not been without controversy locally.
A poll published by the Washington Post on Monday found that 56 percent of city residents surveyed favored private funding to pay for half the cost of a baseball stadium. Nearly 53 percent favored the private funding requirement, which was not part of the city's talks with baseball owners, even if it led owners to move the Expos elsewhere.