Some Stadium Features May Be Cut

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The rising price of construction materials has significantly increased the projected cost of the District's baseball stadium complex, prompting officials to begin discussing what to eliminate from the project, city leaders said yesterday.

Officials declined to say how much more the $535 million project would cost under their most recent analysis, which was conducted by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. But they said potential cutbacks could come from features inside or outside the ballpark, such as reducing the size of concourses, suites and other amenities or moving parking above ground and reducing the number of retail stores at the site.

"We'll have to reduce some things and not be able to do a Cadillac stadium, but we could do a Buick or a Ford," D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) said at the council's monthly legislative meeting.

Her warning came shortly before the council voted 10 to 2 to give preliminary approval to three technical amendments to the stadium financing package, which relies heavily on public money.

The amendments, which deal with tax issues, were sought by city financial officials who said Wall Street bond raters would not grant the project an investment-grade rating unless the changes are made. Such a rating would give the city a lower interest rate and reduce its payments.

A final vote on the amendments is scheduled for Dec. 6. City financial officials said they need to issue bonds before the end of the year to secure the funds to begin construction.

Cropp announced that the council's Finance and Revenue and Economic Development committees will hold a joint roundtable at 10 a.m. Nov. 28 to gather public input on the project.

The council's preliminary approval relieved some city officials who feared that some members might attempt to force Major League Baseball to contribute more money or even move the stadium to another location. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) lobbied some members last week to help ensure the amendments' approval.

Only David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) voted against the financing yesterday, saying they would like to reduce the public investment in the project. Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who opposes public funding, was absent.

"I appreciate the Council moving this legislation along," Williams said in a written statement. "The changes will save taxpayers money and help get the city positioned to build a new, state-of-the-art stadium along the Anacostia River."

But even as the financing matters appeared headed toward resolution, Cropp unexpectedly raised another problem related to potential cost overruns.

Sports commission officials said last week that plans for underground parking, retail shops on the stadium site and some plazas outside the park might be eliminated. Those features are not considered core items by Major League Baseball, but they have been sought by the city to help generate more revenue from a ballpark entertainment district along the Anacostia in near Southeast that would feature restaurants and retail.

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