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Mayors look for public support for Norfolk bid for Expos

/ Source: Associated Press Sports

The group trying to bring the Montreal Expos to Norfolk asked Wednesday for people to show support by placing $100 deposits for season tickets.

       Central to the campaign is a television ad featuring five mayors from the Hampton Roads coastal region wearing business attire and batting helmets as they swing bats, pound gloves and toss or catch balls.

       ''This team's behind it. You should be, too,'' a voiceover says, adding, ''Get in the game.''

       One of those mayors, Norfolk's Paul D. Fraim, said more than 1,000 season-ticket guarantees were sold before the campaign officially began Wednesday. The deposits are refundable.

       In addition, about 40 companies and organizations, including Smithfield Foods and Bank of America, pledged $1,000 apiece to reserve luxury suites for a ballpark that would be built downtown. Plans call for 35,000 to 38,000 seats and at least 60 luxury boxes.

       More sales would show baseball officials that ''the city of Norfolk, the Hampton Roads region and the commonwealth of Virginia are ready to play ball,'' Fraim said at a news conference.

       Baseball has been trying to relocate the Montreal Expos since the struggling franchise was purchased by the 29 other teams before the 2002 season.

       Downtown Washington and Northern Virginia appear to be the leading contenders. Other candidates are Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico; Portland, Ore.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

       Commissioner Bud Selig hopes for a decision around the time of the All-Star break in July.

       Hampton Roads, with a population of more than 1.5 million, is among the largest metropolitan areas lacking a major league sports franchise. In addition to Norfolk, the region includes Virginia Beach.

       In recent years, efforts to bring an NHL expansion team to Norfolk and to relocate the NBA's Charlotte Hornets to the area have failed.

       ''We are an untapped market,'' said William Somerindyke Jr., co-founder of the Norfolk Baseball Co., which represents a group of unidentified investors.

       The season-ticket campaign also includes billboards and radio and print ads, with space largely being donated by local TV, radio and outdoor companies.

       Ticket packages will cost $810 to $2,835 for 81 home games. The luxury suites would range from $75,000 to $125,000, depending on location and amenities.

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