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Expo Extortion The Expos owners,
2003-03-21 11:27
by Mike Carminati

Expo Extortion

The Expos owners, that is the major league owners who also own the Montreal Expos team, heard proposals from the cities of Portland and Washington, D.C. yesterday. They still have a group from Northern Virginia set to perform their dog-and-pony show Friday before the estimable owners convene to make their decision. But don't expect to see any white puffs of smoke emanating from the commissioner's office anytime soon, even though Bob DuPuy expressed an interest "to get it done as rapidly as we can."

Why, do you ask? There's this little gem at the end of the article:

Owners want the highest possible percentage of government funding for a ballpark, and want the funding in place before deciding on a move.

Well, what's the "highest possible"? You'll never know until you pit each group against each other. Here's how they stand right now:

Washington offered to pay between 50 and 80 percent of the cost of a new ballpark for the Montreal Expos, and Portland said government financing would cover $300 million for a stadium if the team moves to Oregon.

Portland even sweetened the deal:

David Logsdon, Portland's spectator facilities manager, presented a draft financing plan for a $350 million ballpark that would be built with $150 million from the state and $150 million from the city, which would raise its money through a hotel and ticket tax and a charter seat program.

"No public votes would be required," Logsdon said.

No public vote? Those words are magic to the owners' ears. So the new Expos owner gets a guaranteed new ballpark for $50 M? Not bad. Wait until they negotiate. The other two areas had better knock the owners' socks off to best Portland. And don't forget that San Juan is getting their tryout this summer as well. They have to be a player though they were not represented in this round.

I think the owners will set up a sweetheart deal in which the new Expos owner can step into a new, free stadium with a good concessions deal in one of these areas.

Then all they will need to find is a potential owner whom they can gauge for a 50-100% markup on the Expos buying price. Why not? The owners took over a moribund franchise in a dying market and turned it into a competitive team in an excited, wanting-to-please market. And they get rid of the poor Canadian exchange rate.

I think that those incentives will be enough to placate even the rather territorial Peter Angelos if needs be.

Expect the areas that lose plus Montreal to be the key names in the next round of expansion. Oh, add the two cities they contract out of existence once they are free to do so after the 2006 season to that mix as well.

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