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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Council backs mayor’s stadium plan

The D.C. City Council voted Tuesday to give preliminary approval to the construction of a stadium for the city’s new baseball team, the Nationals, in Southeast along the Anacostia River.

During a seven-hour meeting, Mayor Anthony Williams made a series of negotiations with Council members aimed at limiting public spending to help gain their support.

“This is a great day for Washington,” Williams said in a written statement. “Today, the Council has done an enormous service for our city. Baseball will serve as a catalyst to spur economic growth, create new jobs and bring in new revenues to the city.”

Last month, Linda Cropp, the Council’s chair, delayed the vote on the stadium because she was concerned about the costs to businesses that would help pay for the stadium. For months, civic activists have protested the use of public funds for a stadium in a city they say desperately needs money elsewhere.

The legislation passed 6 to 4 but failed to garner the majority of the Council’s support, as three members, including Cropp, abstained. The final reading of the bill is expected to be on Dec. 14, and changes can still be made at that date.

The plan will fund the stadium through a tax on large businesses, a levy on concessions at the stadium and annual rent paid by the team.

Williams’ office estimated the cost of the stadium at $440 million, but the city’s chief financial officer said last month the price might be $530 million. Cropp attached to the legislation a provision that would have the CFO take another look at the potential cost of the stadium. If his second estimate puts the stadium at $630 million, the city would have to choose a less expensive site.

“Today’s vote is one step of a long journey,” Williams said. “While I thank the City Council for having the vision to act in the best interests of our city, I look forward to working with the Council, as well as faith, labor, community and business leaders from across the city to make sure that the dream of a revitalized Anacostia waterfront becomes a reality.”

Williams lauded the stadium, saying it will create job opportunities, revitalize a run-down area and provide revenue for the city that could be used for education, healthcare and safety initiatives. But some members of the Council disagreed with the public financing scheme.

“Major League Baseball secured a sweetheart deal that requires our constituents to bear the burden of paying for a stadium while receiving little benefit,” said Council member David Catania (At-large) in a written statement.

Council member Jim Graham (Ward 1) also voted against the bill after a provision that secured $45 million for the city’s public libraries was eliminated.

“Our libraries and recreation centers need funding more than a baseball stadium,” Graham said earlier this month.

The Nationals have already sold 15,000 season tickets for the 2005 season. The team will play in RFK Stadium until they move into their 41,000-seat stadium in Southeast in 2008. The bill also included funds to renovate RFK.

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