Some critics of the $440 million proposal for a baseball stadium along the Anacostia River waterfront in the District favor a refurbished Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium instead. No doubt they will be out in force when the D.C. Council holds a hearing Thursday on this issue.
But my recent research on the regional economic benefits of major league stadiums found that the only place that a stadium makes economic sense is in or near a downtown. That is where a stadium is most likely to lead to an improvement in local and regional income.
Other locations actually can lead to economic blight. For example, RFK Stadium, opened in 1961, has not promoted economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Stadiums must be tourist destinations, not just hangouts for sports fans. That is why locating the stadium along the Anacostia waterfront -- which is envisioned as a major redevelopment area, is near a Metro station and is not far from the downtown tourist area -- makes more sense than refurbishing RFK.
ARTHUR C. NELSON
The writer is director of Virginia Tech's urban affairs and planning program in Alexandria.
The Washington area lost a huge opportunity when Jack Kent Cooke decided to build his new football stadium in suburban Maryland. The results were traffic jams, parking disasters and a stadium lacking in character.
Now we have a chance to build a baseball stadium that would be the foundation of a new waterfront development. A soccer stadium across the river with a footbridge connecting the two anchor facilities, a boardwalk with shops and restaurants, office space, and new housing would change the character of the city in a positive way. A development of this scale would bring many full-time jobs and tax revenue to the area.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor, with its baseball and football stadiums, has become a destination for entertainment, sports, business and dining. The prime central location, combined with excellent architectural design for both stadiums, mass transit and parking, have led to the revitalization of a distressed area.
Although I live in Northern Virginia, I think a ballpark there would have created the same kind of traffic mess that plagues the Redskins. I am excited about the location for the new D.C. baseball team, the Metro access and the potential for creating a waterfront destination.
Regarding Marc Fisher's column "Stealing Home" [Metro, Sept. 30]:
Just blocks away from the proposed site for a new baseball stadium, the District plans to close a shelter for men who are homeless.
One day before the Nov. 1 start of the District's hypothermia prevention season, 170 men will be evicted from the Randall Shelter, a former D.C. school that has served as a year-round home for men for more than two decades.
The District plans to sell the building, claiming that Randall is "no longer required for public purposes." The Corcoran Museum of Art and College of Art and Design intend to purchase the building and renovate it for adult education and college art programs. The 150,000-square-foot building has been offered to the Corcoran for a little more than $6 million.
The sale must be approved by the D.C. Council, and its review and approval process could take months. But sale or no sale, the mayor means to shut down the shelter by the end of this month.
Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert has said the city has no plans for a replacement shelter in Southwest. The only location the mayor's office has identified as a potential permanent new home for the shelter is across the river at the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus, almost three miles away.
For the coming cold weather, the District has promised emergency beds for homeless men. However, the temporary bunks at these shelters also are miles from Randall.
For many homeless men, a bed at Randall has been the only constant in their lives. Rather than allowing another structure to be boarded up for months to await the Southwest renaissance, the District should avoid jeopardizing 170 lives and keep the shelter open for the next several months.
ANTONIA K. FASANELLI
Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
SBC Park, first known as Pac Bell Park, replaced the aging and poorly located Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 2000. Lots of feasibility studies were done on the new baseball stadium -- by the Giants, a city task force and citizen groups -- but their estimates and conclusions were wildly disparate.
A bunch of sites were put forward, and lots of ballot propositions were put to voters, but the plan voters finally approved was one in which almost all direct costs were borne by the team owners -- aided by the $50 million that Pacific Bell Telephone kicked in for naming rights.
San Francisco took nearly two decades to come up with this plan. Its concerns should be heeded by Washingtonians.
* Will the need for city services -- police, traffic control, Metro service, new sidewalks and sewers, etc. -- increase, and if so, at what cost?
* Will huge traffic jams ensue?
* Will parking be adequate?
* Are the job-generation and economic development projections bloated?
* Are there sufficient guarantees that the team will remain in Washington? City-hopping, lured by better deals elsewhere, is the name of the game in professional sports.
The big lesson is: Don't use public money for a new stadium -- make the owners pay for it. Professional sports teams are massive profitmakers, mainly when owners sell the team.
Almost every penny of the $319 million cost of Pac Bell Park is being borne by the team -- unlike what happened in Seattle, Houston, Milwaukee and other major league cities. Larry Baer, the Giants' chief executive, noted that other teams were not happy with the San Francisco outcome, fearing "it might be proof that professional teams don't need taxpayer help."
Let's hope so.
Director of Research
Poverty & Race Research Action Council