A company with close ties to Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, the chief negotiator in the deal that brought baseball to Washington, is a leading candidate for a multimillion-dollar contract to help plan the District's proposed stadium.
Reinsdorf's son Michael is the managing director and co-founder of International Facilities Group, a consulting firm started in 1995 to "provide development and management services to municipalities and professional sports owners," according to the company's Web site.
Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, says IFG is considered "very good in the planning process" for a stadium.
(Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
The agreement Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) signed in September with Major League Baseball calls for the city to build a stadium near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street in Southeast Washington. As part of the $440 million cost, the pact calls for the city to pay an estimated $3.7 million for baseball's consultant on the stadium, also known as the team representative.
Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, acknowledged in an interview that IFG has been discussed as a front-runner for the team representative job. IFG has been working for several months on the renovation of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where the Washington Nationals are to play their first three seasons. And the company has advised the District on financial estimates for the proposed stadium. Major League Baseball has paid the roughly $100,000 fee for IFG's services so far, city officials said.
Tuohey stressed that IFG has not been awarded the contract to be team representative on the new stadium. Even though the District will pay for the consultant, Major League Baseball officials and the Nationals' new ownership group, which will be named next year, will select the firm, Tuohey said. Baseball officials said they will use a formal bidding process similar to the one traditionally used by the District, in which a request for bids is issued and firms are judged comprehensively on cost, reliability and other factors.
If the past is any guide, IFG should have a strong shot at winning the contract because Major League Baseball and its teams have a long record of awarding contracts to the firm. IFG has worked as a consultant on baseball stadiums in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Detroit and Miami.
Some District leaders, who learned yesterday of Michael Reinsdorf's potential involvement in the new stadium, wondered why the city should pay for a team representative. They said if IFG wins the contract, the involvement of both Reinsdorfs is a potential conflict of interest. Jerry Reinsdorf was head of baseball's relocation subcommittee centering on the Washington region.
"That's absolutely worrying," said D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), who opposes the stadium deal. "Jerry Reinsdorf is an extremely wealthy businessperson only interested in making money. The fact that we somehow are preparing to possibly hire one of his family members makes the deal that much more bothersome and troubling."
Tuohey said he first learned of IFG in conversations with Reinsdorf and other baseball officials.
"They were recommended to us by a bunch of people," Tuohey said. "We checked them out with a number of baseball people. They're very good in the planning process."
Michael Reinsdorf responded to a request for an interview by saying in an e-mail that he does not comment on clients. He referred all inquiries to Major League Baseball. His partner, Terry Savarise, did not return a phone call yesterday.
Scott Reifert, a spokesman for the White Sox who said he was speaking on behalf of Jerry Reinsdorf, noted that so far Major League Baseball has assumed all costs for IFG's efforts with the District's stadium plans. He added that the company has had a long track record working with baseball teams, independent of Jerry Reinsdorf.
The D.C. Council narrowly gave preliminary approval to the package last month and will have a final vote Tuesday. Chris Bender, a spokesman for the mayor, said IFG's role in the Nationals' move to Washington has been limited.
"For RFK, they're representing MLB's interests in the redesign of the stadium," Bender wrote in an e-mail. "MLB needs someone there who understands their programmatic needs the best -- from the direction of outfield lighting to seating -- and IFG is serving in that role. . . . MLB is paying them for this service; the city is not."