Cropp Stands by Anacostia Stadium Site As Council Debate on Financing Looms

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2005

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said yesterday that she is committed to building a baseball stadium along the Anacostia River in near Southeast, a position that could prove crucial as the high-stakes project enters an unexpected phase.

The council is preparing to vote over the next two months on three amendments to the stadium financing package that was narrowly approved last year. It was disclosed Friday that the amendments are needed to satisfy Wall Street bond raters, who have said they will not grant the city investment-bond ratings until technical problems in the legislation are rectified.

Some council members have said they intend to use the upcoming debate to explore ways to reduce the public investment in the project, perhaps by asking Major League Baseball for more money or even by moving the stadium to a site near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

During the stadium debate last year, Cropp (D) proposed building the stadium near RFK as a way to reduce the cost of the publicly funded $535 million project. But she eventually cast a deciding vote in favor of the waterfront site, and she said yesterday that she does not want to derail the project.

"Heaven knows, I did want it at RFK. But now the council has voted for the other site, and that is where we are moving forward," Cropp said.

However, she added that the legislation approved last year includes a cost cap and that if costs rise too high at the waterfront, the RFK location remains an option.

Administration officials said derailing the stadium or changing its location now would be devastating because they have begun buying property from residents and business owners at the stadium site and because developers have paid millions for land in anticipation of a waterfront revival.

At least one investor agreed.

"Nobody bought land around RFK. Everybody bought land around [the stadium site] in Southeast," said Jeff Neal, a partner in Monument Realty LLC, which has paid $40 million for land near the Anacostia waterfront. "The stadium site in Southeast stretches the development of the city. RFK has been there for 25 or 30 years, and there's no development happening around there. You don't want baseball to happen in an island."

But Rockville-based developer Ron Cohen, who recently paid $51 million for a city block at Half and K streets SE, a few blocks north of the stadium site, said he didn't think developers would be harmed if the site changed.

"The area has come into its own," he said. "Baseball gives it some identity, but with the Navy Yard down there, the [U.S. Department of Transportation], all the other office buildings along M Street and the waterfront redevelopment, they're not feeding off of the stadium. They're feeding off of commerce."

Baseball officials have objected to any major changes, saying they expect the city to abide by terms of the stadium deal.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company