A construction company from Bethesda has been recommended to receive a contract worth up to $9.4 million to build a baseball stadium in the District, a high-stakes project with a tight 21/2-year schedule.

Clark Construction Group LLC, whose portfolio includes FedEx Field, MCI Center and the Washington Convention Center, was rated the best of the three companies that submitted bids, according to a memo prepared by Allen Y. Lew, chief executive of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

In the memo addressed to commission Chairman Mark H. Tuohey, Lew asked for permission to enter into a contract with Clark. However, the 10-member commission board, originally scheduled to vote today, has delayed its decision until Friday.

Commission sources said yesterday that Lew was revising his memo and noted that the board could elect to choose a different company. Lew declined to comment when reached last night.

"Nothing is official until we discuss it and decide," Tuohey said. "We had three good candidates with three good presentations and good data, and we have to look at this very thoroughly and make our best judgment."

The selection of a construction company is the final major step to completing the team that will design and build the ballpark for the Washington Nationals along the Anacostia waterfront.

Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Sport of Kansas City, Mo., has been selected as the lead architectural firm for the project, along with local partner Devrouax & Purnell. Within the next few weeks, District officials will begin trying to buy land from private owners on a 20-acre site near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard in Southeast. Officials have said they intend to have control of the site by the end of the year and begin construction in March, leaving two years to complete the project.

Clark teamed with Hunt Construction Group and Smoot Construction Co. for its bid on the stadium. According to rankings prepared by a panel of commission officials and outside consultants, the group edged out Turner Construction Co. of New York, which teamed with Guilford Construction. A joint bid from Barton Malow Co., Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Essex Construction came in third.

Lew worked closely with Clark on the convention center, a massive project for which Lew served as managing director before taking over the sports commission last fall.

According to Lew's memo, a four-member panel interviewed the companies June 30 and July 1. Lew also was present at each interview. The companies were judged on seven criteria: experience, key employees, a management plan, fees, an understanding of the construction schedule, a completion guarantee and promises to use local, minority subcontractors.

Lew's memo stated that the Clark-Hunt-Smoot proposal was judged superior in four categories. Combined, the firms have worked on 15 major league baseball stadiums since 1990. Ten of those projects included HOK Sport as architect.

The lobbying to win the project has been fierce.

"All three of the offerors could build the new ballpark as they are all experienced and competent construction managers," Lew's memo stated.

A message left for Clark officials was not returned last night.

Clark has experience building professional sports facilities under tight time constraints. It completed the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field in 17 months, for example. It also has worked on sports arenas in the District in cramped, urban spaces, such as MCI Center near Gallery Place.

Turner Construction also has worked on local sports facilities, including the recent $18.4 million renovation of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium for the Nationals.