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County's Baseball Fever Rising

'Optimistic' over Stadium

Baseball fever is rising as Loudoun County and ball officials wait for word on whether Virginia will get the nod as the new home of the Montreal Expos.

Optimism is running high.

"I feel confident that Northern Virginia is the top site at this point," said Scott York, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "Right now the vibes that seem to be coming out of certain corners of Major League Baseball, is that the Dulles site is the number one site."

Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch, who was among the officials who met in Houston last week to try to push for relocation of the Montreal Expos to Virginia, agreed. "We're pretty confident we are the premiere site," he said.

Brian Hannigan, a spokesman for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, said there is still no definitive answer. "Our characterization of the situation is we are in ongoing contact with the relocation committee, and we are very optimistic about the outcome."

THE BOARD of Supervisors, the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, the Virginia Baseball Club and Diamond Lake Associates have put together a $360 million financial package to bring the Expos to Northern Virginia's home plate. The plan is to build a stadium near the Dulles Washington International Airport and build a residential/commercial development around it.

Jerry Burkot, spokesman for the Virginia Baseball Club, said Bill Collins, chairman of the club, and his partners are hopeful after working toward buying the team for 11 years. He said they were encouraged by the conversations in Houston. The Virginia Baseball Club, which finances the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, is competing for ownership of the franchise. Major League Baseball is expected to select a site before choosing new owners. It also is considering sites in Washington, D.C.; Norfolk, Va.; Portland, Ore.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Monterrey, Mexico, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"We heard very positive … feedback," Burkot said Tuesday. "We are very optimistic that it will be a favorable decision."

He said there has been no definitive date set for an announcement, but the owners could make a decision before or during their meeting in Philadelphia Aug. 17, 18, and 19.

YORK SAID county officials would have to work fast to make sure all of the approvals are in place for construction of the stadium to begin by the end of 2005. "It's going to be close," he said. "One of the biggest elements is transportation. They have to prove and convince us, the public, that the proposal they are making works."

The site would share access from the Dulles Toll Road and Route 28, while rail, shuttles and buses would be utilized. Highway interchanges are slated for Route 28, the Dulles Toll Road, and Route 606. The Federal Transit Administration has endorsed the Dulles Rail project, moving it from a study phase to engineering. The potential stadium site is served by 26 streets and highway lanes on the Dulles Toll Road, the Greenway, Route 28, Rock Hill Road, Old Ox Road, Shaw Road and Atlantic Boulevard.

Jim Curren, representing one of the engineering and consulting firms, Vermont Transport, said the roads could feasibly handle 10,000 to 12,000 cars without traffic backup. The key is to have enough entrances to the ballpark, he said.