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Fast baseball conversion being prepared for RFK

©Associated Press
September 11, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The third-base dugout is gone from the field at RFK Stadium.

"It's downstairs, in the basement," said Bobby Goldwater, who oversees the ballpark as president of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. "The frame for the dugout is literally sitting in what would be leftfield. It's part of the stands."

Coming up with the best way to reassemble the dugout and reconfigure the ballpark is one of Goldwater's pressing projects. Now that relocation is viable, he has to come up with a plan to get RFK ready as quickly as possible should the Expos move to Washington on short notice for next season.

"We believe it can take about six weeks to get it all done," Goldwater said.

With contraction officially off the table under the new labor agreement, the campaign to return baseball to the capital has its best chance in years. Any team would play at least two seasons at RFK while a ballpark is built downtown or in Northern Virginia.

The last time the stadium hosted baseball, for two exhibition games between the Expos and Cardinals three years ago, the configuration had a Spartan, dated feel.

Goldwater has three fix-it-up lists. The first contains ongoing improvements that were needed anyway, including more than $1-million already spent for a video-screen and scoreboard, a new sound system for the lower deck, new paint, better signage and pothole repairs in the parking lot.

"The second list is things that would absolutely, positively be needed to be done," Goldwater said. "A baseball field has to be created again, including padding around the railing, recreating the outfield fence, backstop, foul poles, anything basic to playing a baseball game."

The baseball press box needs a wiring job. The clubhouses would need an upgrade, and about 5,000 seats need to be moved out of leftfield, then moved back when there's a soccer game.

Goldwater's third list is a "wish list," a to-do agenda that would make RFK a modern, fan-friendly park. Financing would come primarily from the team's owner.

That's where Fred Malek and Bill Collins come in. Both head groups trying to lure a team.

"Can we be ready? Yes," said Winston Bao Lord, executive director of Malek's Washington Baseball Club. "But in terms of the way we can envision RFK, we'd love to have time."

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