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Cropp Stadium Plan Lacks Council Votes

Chairman Says Mayor Also Falls Short

By Serge F. Kovaleski and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 8, 2004; Page B01

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said yesterday that she appears short on votes to win approval of her alternative proposal to build a major league ballpark adjacent to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium when the council takes up the matter tomorrow.

But Cropp (D) said she believes that Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) does not have enough votes for his plan to construct a baseball stadium along the Anacostia River in an industrial area of Southeast Washington.

"I don't think right now I have the votes," Linda Cropp says. (The Washington Post)

Both sides were angling yesterday to win broader council backing, and the mayor hopes to rally the public with a four- to six-minute televised address at 8 tonight on District cable, Channel 16.

Even if neither plan wins council approval tomorrow, Cropp said, it would not necessarily doom the District's deal to bring the Montreal Expos to the city. She suggested that a compromise bill could be crafted before the Dec. 31 deadline agreed to by the Williams administration and Major League Baseball to have a stadium package ratified by the 13-member council. She did not say how a compromise might resolve the disagreement.

In an interview, Cropp said she intends to talk with council members today about her competing plan, which she has said would cost the District 20 percent less than the mayor's location of choice near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street.

"I don't think right now I have the votes. I have five or six, including myself," she said.

Of her stunning decision Friday to pursue a publicly funded stadium next to RFK Stadium, Cropp said: "I have struggled with this myself. But I passionately believe I am right about this and that it is the best for the District."

She added: "It is my hope that reason will prevail and support will come to this plan as we are debating the issue. But this may take longer than Tuesday."

Mayoral aides said they were confident that the administration has six council votes lined up in favor of its site. They added that a critical seventh vote was being sought.

"When it comes to the vote, I feel we are going to have the votes that we need to get this through," mayoral spokesman Chris Bender said. "This is not just about a stadium plan. It is also about revitalizing the Anacostia River, creating jobs for people and economic development for the city."

The team is scheduled to begin play next spring at RFK Stadium, with plans calling for a move to the new stadium along the Anacostia in 2008.

Cropp, some business leaders and others grew particularly concerned about the rising costs of the project after the District's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, released a report two weeks ago saying the stadium price tag could hit $530 million, which is $90 million more than the mayor's estimate.

Business leaders have expressed concern that a gross-receipts tax on the city's largest businesses, which would help pay for the stadium, would be increased again in the future if the cost runs over projection. They have pressured Cropp and other council members to ensure that costs are contained. The financing structure includes a tax on concessions and an annual rent payment by the team.

Williams and other administration officials spent much of yesterday at the John A. Wilson Building, lobbying several council members in person or by phone, including Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8), who are considered pivotal.

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