Crucial Weeks Ahead

Two days past deadline for the Expos to obtain financing for a new stadium, team president Claude Brochu said he doubted a new ball park will be built in Montreal.

After Brochu and baseball commissioner Bud Selig met as part of an economic study group, Selig reiterated that he won't extend the deadline.

A senior baseball official, speaking on the condition he not be identified, said Selig will wait a few weeks or more to see if the situation changes in Montreal.

If nothing happens, Selig will then give Brochu permission to negotiate with potential buyers who would move the franchise, possibly for the 2000 season.

"Everything has been clearly stated by the government," Brochu said. "A new poll in Montreal shows 65 per cent are against government funding."

Brochu has been fighting with some of the limited partners in the group that owns the team, including chairman Jacques Menard, who was given until last Saturday by Selig to obtain stadium financing and funding for a new ownership group.

Selig and other baseball officials have said the Expos cannot be a viable franchise without a new ballpark, and some owners - most notably the New York Yankees' George Steinbrenner - have criticized the team for becoming a drain on baseball's revenue-sharing system. "The deadline has passed. We'll just have to wait and see what happens," Selig said.

Groups in Northern Virginia, downtown Washington and Charlotte, N.C., are interested in obtaining a team.

Any group wishing to move the Expos to Washington or Northern Virginia probably would have to overcome a legal battle with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who says he would attempt to block a team from moving that close to Baltimore.

Brochu, recognized by baseball as the team's controlling owner, said nothing had been accomplished by the initiatives of Menard, who has attempted to bring in new partners, including New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria.

Brochu was offered about $10 million U.S. by the Expos' current partners for his 7.6-per-cent share of the team.

"It's been very disruptive," he said. "It's gotten us to where we are today."

Baseball has been reluctant to move franchises. The last to relocate was the Washington Senators, who became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. Because of that reluctance, Selig wants to wait a little bit longer to see if any effort to save the Expos takes root in Montreal, the official said.

Brochu said the next step is up to Selig. "I'm going to do what he tells me," Brochu said.

A legal snag may await if Brochu gets the go-ahead. A two-thirds majority approval is needed among the 13-member consortium that owns the team to put it up for sale.

Menard has returned to Montreal from the team's Jupiter, Fla., training site and is expected to meet with government officials this week about stadium financing

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