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MLB DECIDES TO EXPAND BY FOUR; TWO SOON AND TWO LATER
Published January 23, 1995
The MLB Expansion Committee unanimously recommended that MLB proceed with expansion of four teams, two of which will be awarded in an "expeditious manner" and two more franchises to be added in a "reasonable amount of time thereafter." MLB Acting Commissioner Bud Selig: "Expansion continues to be on a fast track" (MLB). Expansion Committee Chair John Harrington hinted that the final steps in the process could be completed at the next owners' meeting, scheduled to be held March 7-9. But there are indications a meeting could be held in early February (Marc Topkin, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/21). Four cities have made official expansion bids: Tampa-St. Pete, Phoenix, Orlando, and two separate groups from Northern VA, with Tampa and Phoenix considered front runners. The cost for the next two franchises is estimated at $125-140M. The first two teams will be chosen from the four finalists, but the second two teams will most likely be chosen from a larger list of applicants that could include Vancouver, Mexico City, Monterrey, Nashville, Buffalo and Charlotte (Mult., 1/21). TAMPA BAY: Tampa Bay's expansion effort is headed by Vince Naimoli, and if chosen, would likely be placed in the AL. Yankee Owner George Steinbrenner, who has been an advocate for the area getting a team: "This is a good sign." Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL), who had suggested that he would drop his opposition to MLB's antitrust exemption if Tampa gets a team: "I hope this is a sign the long ordeal of heartbreaks and headaches is coming to an end" (Marc Topkin, ST. PETE TIMES, 1/21). In Tampa, Joe Henderson writes, "If Tampa Bay doesn't get a team out of that mix, it never will and we all can get on with our lives" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/21). PHOENIX: Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo is heading up this city's efforts and is very confident that he will gain a team: "This was a big hurdle. We're well on our way to being one of the up and coming cities of the next century" (PHOENIX GAZETTE, 1/21). The city has placed an April 1 deadline for a team to be named so that public money can be allocated for the new $275M stadium. If MLB owners insist on having two teams begin play in '97, Phoenix may not make the first round since their stadium will not be ready until '98 (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). But one MLB owner said of Tampa and Phoenix: "It's a fait accompli. Those franchises have been promised to Phoenix and Tampa" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). Colangelo also has begun plans to find a temporary home for the '97 season. The most likely site is the Peoria Sports Complex. Still, Colangelo thinks the next two teams will not begin play until '98 (Eric Miller, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/21). NORTHERN VA: There are two groups vying for a team: one headed by telecomm exec Bill Collins and the other by attorney Bart Fisher. Many baseball and local officials have acknowledged that Collins' partnership will be awarded the franchise if the owners select this area. Collins said he has reached a "memorandum of understanding" on a temporary lease at RFK Stadium, which would require $7M in renovations. The team would play there until a new park is built, probably near Dulles Int'l Airport (Maske & Lipton, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). While the proximity of the Orioles always had hurt expansion efforts in the area, the "unpopularity" of Orioles Owner Peter Angelos among his peers "has made that a moot point." MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr: "They might want to punish Angelos by putting a team there. That's the sort of under-the-table comment you pick up" (Mark Maske, WASHINGTON POST, 1/21). ORLANDO: Real estate developer Norton Herrick is leading the drive for an Orlando franchise. Herrick: "If they award a team to St. Petersburg, I'd have to rethink my position in Orlando. I'm not sure if Central Florida can support two teams" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 1/21).