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Volume 24 No. 158
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ECKELS APPLYING PRESSURE TO MCLANE? SAYS REFERENDUM LIKELY

     Harris County Judge Robert Eckels says there is a "strong
likelihood" commissioners will call for an Astros stadium
referendum by September 3, the last day possible for having
ballot language ready for the November 5 election, according to
John Williams of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE.  Such a move is designed
to "pressure" Astros Owner Drayton McLane to remain in Houston
and speed up "stalled" talks over a $250M, 42,000-seat,
retractable-roofed ballpark.  In the past Eckels had said a
referendum would not be conducted unless McLane supported the
stadium financing plans.  Eckels noted that a November referendum
provides Harris County with several strategies: more time to
negotiate with McLane and develop details of a new facility;
placing pressure on MLB to prevent McLane from relocating if he
opposes a final plan.  Eckels:  "The referendum is not really
about Drayton.  It's about whether or not the voters want to
build a stadium."  Astros Senior VP Bob McClaren said the club
has "no problem" with a referendum (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/27).