Councilman Frank Smith (D-Ward 1) has introduced legislation that would consolidate the District's Armory Board, Boxing and Wrestling Commission and Baseball Commission into a single D.C. Sports Authority.
In addition to assuming the management and regulatory functions of the Armory Board and the Boxing and Wrestling Commission, the Sports Authority would be charged with promoting the District as a site not only for a major league baseball expansion franchise, but for other major sporting events, such as the 1994 World Cup soccer finals, which are being pursued by a group of local businessmen.
If approved, the legislation would place Washington in an increasingly long line of cities forming such groups to attract events and franchises.
Smith said the proposed legislation would have no effect on the Armory Board's negotiations with Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke on a new football stadium that would keep the team in Washington.
Even if the Council approves the legislation before its session ends in December and Mayor Marion Barry signs it, Smith said the 30-day congressional review period likely would prevent enactment until March -- well after Barry, who chairs the Armory Board, has left office. At that point, Smith said, Barry will not be representing the city in its talks with Cooke unless the new mayor appoints him to do so.
"I've known this has been necessary for a long time," Smith said. "I've waited so the timing is such that people are going to be changing and we can change to a new concept."
Smith said the District needs "one consistent effort" at promoting itself in order to attract top-notch sporting events.
"We are all concerned about the bifurcated process that we have now," said Smith, who has chaired the Baseball Commission since its inception in 1984, but is planning to leave it "in the near future," regardless of whether the proposed legislation is approved.
"We are lucky to have volunteer groups spring up from time to time, like we have for the World Cup, but we are in competition with other jurisdictions, and unless we do it more consistently, we're not going to get our just desert," Smith said.
The proposed legislation has been referred to the Council's Public Services Committee, chaired by Smith. He said the committee would hold a public hearing on the matter Nov. 15 at the District Building, and that mayoral candidates Sharon Pratt Dixon and Maurice Turner soon would be given copies of the legislation for their review.
The Sports Authority would be composed of 21 unpaid members appointed by the mayor and approved by the Council. Smith said he would like the authority members' expertise to be arrayed so various subcommittees can be established. One of the subcommittees would be responsible for facilities, another for boxing and wrestling, Smith said.
Smith said the authority, which likely would employ a manager and other full-time staff, would be self-supporting.
"I do not anticipate an appropriation being needed for funding," he said. "It ought to be able to fund itself through internally generated funds."
The proposed legislation would give the authority bonding authority similar to that held by the Armory Board, and would make no changes in the regulations administered by the Boxing and Wrestling Commission, said Rob Goldman, the member of Smith's staff who wrote the bill.
"We are open to changes" in the legislation, Smith said, "but this is our best shot. We think this is a good working piece from which to move forward."
Smith said the proposed legislation was written after he and his staff studied the statutes that created the New Jersey Sports Authority, which administers the Meadowlands sports complex, and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which is involved with the Baltimore Orioles' new stadium at Camden Yards and the city's efforts to obtain an NFL franchise.
As for Smith's role with the proposed Sports Authority, he said he does not wish to be a member, although he would like play an oversight role on the Council's behalf.