January 4, 2006

Baseball seeks mediation in D.C. stadium dispute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major League Baseball appealed to a
mediator on Wednesday to resolve its dispute with Washington,
D.C., over a stalled agreement to build a $667 million
city-financed stadium for the Washington Nationals.

The league, which owns the team, said it filed a claim to
mediate the dispute with the American Arbitration Association
after the city failed to approve a lease agreement, acquire
necessary land and sell bonds by a year-end 2005 deadline.

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams withdrew the
lease from consideration by the city council on December 19
after council members balked at escalating costs.

The city has since been negotiating with the league for
additional financing to the project, including coverage of
potential cost overruns.

"Now that the December 31st deadline for signing a lease on
the new ballpark site has passed, we believe the best way to
move the process forward for the benefit of the District's
baseball fans is through the mediation process," said Bob
DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball.

"It is our contractual right to seek mediation as a tool to
convince the parties to fulfill their obligations as set forth
in the contract that was agreed to more than a year ago," he

The council's December 2004 vote to approve a $535 million
borrowing cap for the proposed stadium on the Anacostia River
south of the U.S. Capitol sealed the league's decision to move
the former Montreal Expos franchise to Washington last year.

Mayor Williams on Wednesday said baseball's move was
expected as "a kind of legal placeholder," and added that he
thought progress was being made toward a resolution.

"We obviously have to make some revisions" in order to gain
council support, he said.

"We've got to make some headway on the cost overrun issue
and I believe that we will make some, and it will involve give
and take on both sides," Williams added.

Major League Baseball spokesman Richard Levin said under
the mediation claim, a mediator would have 15 days to try to
bring the two sides to a resolution. If the dispute were still
not resolved, the league could seek binding arbitration.

"We're hopeful we can come to an agreement," he said.