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Dealing with Disappointment

Major League Baseball Chooses Washington, D.C. over Northern Virginia.

Despite disappointment over the Montreal Expos moving to Washington, D.C., some key players in Northern Virginia are still holding out for a change in circumstances.

Major League Baseball chose D.C. over the Dulles area last week for the new site for a stadium. Leonard “Hobie” Mitchel, president of Diamond Lake Associates LLC, was not ready to concede Monday. Until all the details are worked out in Washington, he said he is not willing to let go of his dream to build a mix of residential, retail, commercial, and office buildings adjacent to the proposed ball park near the Washington Dulles International Airport.

“We’re still proceeding forward with our plan,” he said Monday. “We still think the town center makes a lot of sense. In some form, it needs something there. … It could be a lot of different things. Right now, it’s baseball.”

The developer will consider alternatives, such as a performing arts center, only after the decision on the ballpark is final, he said. Diamond Lake Associates LLC is a partnership of Beazer Homes, Centex Corporation and Van Metre Companies.

Brian Hannigan, spokesman for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, said Major League Baseball should have selected Virginia. “We’re disappointed we didn’t prevail, because we felt we deserved to,” he said. “We had an outstanding site, terrific, first class development partners, and despite some of the complications with our financing plan, we had a financing plan that involved a responsible level of public support that did not involve any non-baseball-related taxes on the general public.”

The stadium would have been funded completely by the team and revenues generated at the ball park, he said.

Rick Kowalick, president of the Virginians for Baseball, said the Virginia fans know Dulles was a better location. He blamed Gov. Mark Warner for the loss. “If only he had supported the moral obligation bonds … but he backed out.”

The authority had recommended using the state’s “moral obligation” bonds to finance the ball park. The authority would benefit from Virginia’s good credit, but the financing would open the Commonwealth to risk. Virginia would have to make debt service payments in case of default. Warner presented an alternative financial package.

Kowalick wished Washington the best. “We’re encouraging fans to attend baseball there,” he added.

Hannigan said the authority is happy to have Major League Baseball returning to the area after a 33-year absence.

Bruce Tulloch, vice-chairman of the Board of Supervisors, was unavailable for comment, but he issued a written statement on behalf off the board. “We are delighted that Major League Baseball will be returning to the region. This is something that will benefit the entire region. … We look forward to cheering for the new Washington ball club.”

Scott York, chairman of the board, said Diamond Lake’s construction of residential, retail, commercial, and office buildings would still serve as an economic boost to the area.

Jerry Burkot, spokesman for the Virginia Baseball Club, said a decision has not been made whether to move forward with its plan to buy the team. “Up until yesterday, we were still focused on Virginia,” he said. “We’ll probably get our partners together in the near future to talk about it.”