Mayor Proposes Lifting Cap for Stadium Parking

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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2006

Six months after the D.C. Council voted to cap the rising costs of the Washington Nationals baseball stadium at $611 million, Mayor Anthony A. Williams now says the city needs an additional $75 million in public funds to finish the job.

The extra money, which would require approval from the council, would be used to help pay for parking garages on city land just north of the ballpark, near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington.

Mayoral aides said they are working with Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) on a legislative bill that would ask the council to alter the spending cap. But several other members objected vehemently yesterday when informed of the plan by a reporter.

Although the council included $25 million for parking in the initial budget, Williams (D) and his top aides say that is not enough to build the garages in a way that would allow for additional development on the site, such as condominiums, shops and restaurants. The mayor has promised that the ballpark project would spur new business and produce millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Under the proposal being developed by Williams, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and some council members, the council would be asked at its Oct. 18 meeting to alter the cap and allow additional public money to pay for stadium parking.

"All the council members agree that we need to maximize the economic benefits of the stadium," mayoral spokesman Vince Morris said yesterday. "If we do not do this, we lose out. . . . To not do it would be irresponsible."

When Williams announced that the District would be getting a Major League Baseball team in September 2004, he said the stadium and parking would cost $435 million. But the cost estimates were quickly raised -- to $535 million in December 2004, then to the $611 million limit set by the council in April.

David A. Catania (I-At Large), who voted against the stadium, said city leaders misled residents when the initial budgets were set.

"This is just the beginning of what will be a project that is far more expensive than promised," Catania said. "They are a minimum of $100 million over budget in the first six months" since the council approved financing for the stadium.

Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), an ardent stadium booster, said he did not think the council would approve any proposal to alter the cap and allow more public spending.

"There is no legislative remedy for the parking," Evans said. "Under no scenario will the council raise the cap, in my view."

A spokesman for Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), the Democratic mayoral nominee, said Fenty had not been briefed and was not prepared to comment. The issue is on the agenda for the mayor's regular breakfast with the council this morning.

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