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Accord Reached on D.C. Stadium

The new stadium, to be built near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street in Southeast Washington, has been estimated by various city officials to cost from $440 million to $584 million, including infrastructure and land acquisition. The ballpark itself would cost $279 million, meaning the legislation adopted last week would require $140 million in private financing.

Cropp said she agreed to remove the provision mandating private funds because she is confident that significant amounts of private money will be found. Already, she said, the city has a plan that Natwar M. Gandhi, the city's chief financial officer, has said can raise $100 million.

Chairman Linda W. Cropp and Mayor Anthony A. Williams address reporters. (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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Cropp declined to be specific about that plan, but sources have said it entails charging motorists for curbside parking around the stadium. The Gates Group, a Cleveland-based private equity company, made that proposal weeks ago. Cropp emphasized that no company has been selected for any private financing plan.

The new proposal from Cropp and Williams would reduce the compensatory damages the city would have to pay if the new stadium did not open by March 2008. Most recently, Major League Baseball had said that the liability would be no more than $19 million per year. But under the new plan, baseball officials would agree to a provision saying that the city would not have to pay any compensatory damages if stadium construction were delayed. In return, the city would waive one year's rent payment of $5 million from the Nationals for playing at RFK.

Yesterday's negotiations began when Cropp met in the morning with City Administrator Robert C. Bobb and Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. Then she huddled with Williams (D) for about 12 minutes in the early afternoon.

Cropp left the Wilson building about 7:45 p.m. as the mayor and his staff were still working on terms of the proposed agreement. She returned to the building about 10 p.m.

Throughout the day and evening, the mayor's staff was seeking approval of the changes from baseball executives, who were communicating by telephone.

Last week, after the council adopted the amended legislation requiring private funding, DuPuy announced that the Nationals would shut down all business and promotional activities until further notice. DuPuy also offered refunds to fans who had put deposits on season tickets.

Nationals President Tony Tavares said last night that of the more than 16,000 people who put down $300 for season tickets, 563 had asked for a refund.

Last night, more than 200 baseball fans and local luminaries gathered at the AFL-CIO headquarters in downtown Washington for about 90 minutes for a rally, anxiously awaiting good news that never came.

The crowd began dispersing shortly after 7:30 p.m., but not before it heard Charlie Brotman, the former Washington Senators announcer, and others wax nostalgic about baseball in Washington. Cropp acknowledged that the acrimony surrounding the debate over baseball has caused divisions among some city residents and leaders.

"For whatever reason, this really was an issue that captured people's hearts," she said. "Tonight, as I sit here next to the mayor, it's time to bring this city back and work together with the citizens."

Staff writers Allan Lengel and Eric M. Weiss contributed to this report.

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