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HOUSTON WANTS COMMITMENT FROM MLB THAT ASTROS WILL STAY
Published May 1, 1998
MLB "is balking at Houston's attempt to extract a promise the Astros will play at least 30 years in the ballpark being built downtown," according to John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Astros Owner Drayton McLane Jr. has made a written promise to sign a "strict performance lease" that would prevent the team from playing home games anywhere else for 30 years. But the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority "wants stronger assurances should baseball face worsened economic problems." In a "doomsday scenario, McLane or a future owner might place the Astros in bankruptcy, voiding such a lease and freeing the next owner to move the team." Authority officials have been negotiating with Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig for a pledge that MLB "will not allow the Astros to leave Houston until their 30-year lease expires." Though MLB "has the antitrust power to make such a promise," two sources said that Selig "has been unwilling to put anything in writing." Williams writes that Authority officials "don't have much negotiating power" because they have started construction on the $249.5M ballpark and need a final lease to secure their tenant. Gene Locke, the Authority's legal counsel, said yesterday that until the authority completes its discussions with Selig, it cannot complete its lease negotiations with the Astros (John Williams, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/1).