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Thursday, April 10
Updated: April 11, 8:29 AM ET
Vaughn says he has plan to move team to Puerto Rico

Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Atlanta businessman Charles Vaughn says he has a plan and investors to buy a major league team and move it to Puerto Rico.

Island officials are wary of spending money to upgrading a stadium, especially since games in the island's own professional league often play to empty seats.

Vaughn says he has Puerto Rican and U.S. investors ready to make an offer to the commissioner's office to buy either the Montreal Expos or another franchise. The Expos play 22 home games in San Juan this season, starting Friday night against the New York Mets.

This Spanish-speaking island often bills itself as a bridge to Latin America, while its position as a U.S. territory would maintain any investment in U.S. dollars.

Puerto Rican officials say they're concerned about the cost of building or renovating ballpark with a capacity of 40,000 or more.

"We are talking about a possible investment of over $100 million ... I don't think there is mood for an investment of that nature at this time,'' said Puerto Rico's sport and recreation secretary, Jorge Rosario.

Vaughn said he has talked with San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini and neighboring Carolina Mayor Jose Aponte about the possibility of renovating either city's stadium, at an estimated cost of $150-200 million.

San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium, the site of the Expos' game, has a capacity of 14,776 seats, and the municipality has added 5,000 bleacher seats. Carolina has the 12,500-seat Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium.

San Juan's economic development secretary, Diego Robles, said the municipality would be open to help a private enterprise plan, but not if it includes a multimillion dollar investment from the local government.

"Me, as a municipality, to invest such a significant amount of money to build a new stadium, I don't see that as possible at this moment,'' Robles said.

Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore., are the leading bidders to get the Expos for 2004. All three areas made presentations last month to the committee evaluating the team's future.

Vaughn would not identify possible investors. He said an "acceptable'' price would be between $120 million and $175 million. Owner Jeff Loria sold the Expos to the other 29 teams for $120 million last year.

"I believe this has been a realistic possibility for many, many years now,'' Vaughn said. "It's an economic viable opportunity, and that will be evidenced by the 22 games.''

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