Baseball Opposes Moving Stadium

By David Nakamura and Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Major League Baseball's president told D.C. Council members yesterday that baseball would not agree to move a planned stadium from a site along the Anacostia River. Meanwhile, Mayor Anthony A. Williams made a rare appearance before the council to defend the costs of the ballpark plan.

The council is concerned about the rising price of the project at the Southeast Washington site, which was estimated by city financial officials this week to cost $667 million, far more than the city's $589 million budget. Some members have suggested moving the project to a site near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, which financial officials said would cost $606 million.

But in a letter to council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and distributed to her 12 colleagues, baseball President Robert A. DuPuy warned that baseball expected the city to move forward at the Anacostia River site.

"We continue to be convinced that the site called for . . . is the best of the available options," DuPuy wrote. "We are not prepared to summarily agree that the site ought to be moved and wish to dispel any suggestions that you may have heard to the contrary."

The letter came as the council held a day-long public hearing on a stadium lease agreement between the city and baseball officials, which the council will vote on Tuesday. D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi has said he will not issue construction bonds until the lease is finalized. Baseball is prepared to name a new owner for the Washington Nationals within days of the city approving the stadium lease, according to baseball sources.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wrapped up his final round of interviews yesterday with groups that are bidding on the team by meeting with Jeffrey Smulyan, an Indianapolis media mogul who is leading a group of District businessmen seeking to buy the team.

Dozens of baseball supporters, many wearing red Nationals hats, were in the chambers yesterday along with anti-stadium activists. Representatives from both sides testified, including consumer activist Ralph Nader, who urged council members "to vote no on this lease and save taxpayers money and prevent Major League Baseball from running roughshod over D.C."

Williams (D) testified for the first time since last year, making his case for the stadium. Council members grilled the mayor and his top aides for more than three hours about the lease and the stadium costs, focusing largely on where the city will find the money to fund $36.5 million in infrastructure upgrades to the Navy Yard Metro station and nearby roads.

Williams reiterated that those projects will not be funded with city money but rather with contributions from the federal government and private developers.

"How specifically would you go about seeking funding . . . both from the federal government and private community?" Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) asked.

"We have already had discussions with the federal government about our yearly allotment and about support that particularly goes to Metro," Williams responded. "There are resources available from Metro itself."

The mayor offered few other details. Aides acknowledged that there have been no promises from the federal government or private developers. And Metro board Chairman T. Dana Kauffman said in an interview last week that he did not expect Metro to fund upgrades to the Navy Yard Station related to the stadium.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company