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Stadium Analyses Put Cost Far Higher

$174 Million More May Be Required

By Serge F. Kovaleski and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 14, 2004; Page A01

A proposed new stadium in Southeast Washington could cost up to $174 million more than the figure that District government leaders cited in their agreement with Major League Baseball and at community meetings aimed at winning support for the deal, according to interviews and documents.

In announcing a long-sought pact with baseball officials two months ago, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) put the price tag of building a ballpark at South Capitol and N streets and renovating Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, for interim use, at $440 million, most of it to be financed with public funds.

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But an analysis by The Washington Post -- based on interviews with city officials, internal memos and e-mail obtained under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act -- shows that the cost could rise to $614 million if the District were to undertake all the infrastructure projects that might be needed to accommodate a team playing in Washington.

Most of the additional money is the nearly $100 million it could cost to expand Metro's Navy Yard rail station and move a major Metro maintenance garage. Officials at the transit agency said the District would be expected to cover those expenses.

The D.C. Department of Transportation estimates that it would cost $13.5 million to improve streets and sidewalks and add traffic signals and signs around the ballpark, a figure that could change after the stadium design is done.

And D.C. Water and Sewer Authority consultants said that protecting or moving massive pipes could cost $5 million or more. The utility says the District would be obligated to pay those costs.

Entities Not Consulted

The Williams administration did not specifically include any cost estimates for those items in its voluminous stadium proposal. Metro officials said that no one from the mayor's planning office consulted them until late last month, even though the current stadium site was one of several possible locations that the Williams administration identified more than two years ago. WASA officials also said they have not been formally consulted.

Moreover, Metro officials said that the District has been operating under the assumption that the Navy Yard station has the same capacity as the Stadium-Armory station at RFK, even though the Navy Yard stop is considerably smaller.

Mayoral aides contend that not all this infrastructure work is necessary and that even if it is undertaken, much of the cost could be covered by contingency funds in the stadium budget or shared by the federal government and other entities.

Stephen M. Green, a special adviser to Williams on baseball and economic issues, said the way the bonds that would pay off stadium debt are structured provides a substantial cushion. Although the District estimated the cost of the stadium package at $440 million, the bonds were designed so that the level of spending could reach $500 million without the city having to make any changes in a gross-receipts tax on businesses.

But Williams's initial cost estimate for the 41,000-seat stadium has faced growing skepticism. The District's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, released an analysis last month that said the price could rise to $530 million, largely because the city underestimated infrastructure costs.

And late last week, the office of the D.C. auditor, the investigative arm of the D.C. Council, completed an analysis of the baseball agreement and concluded that the cost could go even higher, to nearly $584 million. In her report, the auditor, Deborah K. Nichols, cited "unrealistic" infrastructure cost estimates and the likelihood that the land at the proposed site will cost more than the $65 million budgeted.

The analysis, requested by D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), who vehemently opposes a publicly financed stadium, further stated that the $22 million estimate for demolition and clearing seems low given the number of properties at the site. Nichols also concluded that the figure does not include estimates for "removing or remediating environmental hazards that may be found" at the site, which has long been an industrial area.

Growing Apprehension

Concerns that the final cost could end up much higher than initially stated have alarmed civic activists, business representatives and city leaders, including D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D). She stunned proponents of the deal nine days ago by saying she wanted the ballpark constructed adjacent to RFK Stadium, which would cut costs by at least 20 percent, she said.

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