December 12, 2005

Washington, D.C. stadium seen costing $667.3 mln

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington, D.C.'s new baseball
stadium will cost $667.3 million if the city pursues plans to
build it near the Anacostia River, according to new cost
estimates released on Monday.

If the stadium is built instead on a site next to the
existing Robert F. Kennedy stadium, it will cost $605.5
million, according to the projections made by the city's chief
financial officer, Natwar Gandhi.

The new estimates come as the city council is nearing a
crucial December 20 vote on a 30-year stadium lease for the
Washington Nationals at the Anacostia River site, about a mile
south of the U.S. Capitol building.

Several city council members are advocating that the
District of Columbia build the new ballpark instead at the RFK
site because it would involve lower land costs.

But the difference of $61.8 million between the two sites
is smaller than RFK advocates' predictions that the city could
save $100 million or more by switching sites.

Gandhi said, however, that he added $31 million in
contingency costs to the RFK site because of possible delays in
obtaining federal government approval to amend the land lease
for a new stadium, environmental tests and new lease
negotiations with Major League Baseball.

The total project costs for the Anacostia River site
include $109.7 million in land acquisition and preparation
costs, versus $16 million at the RFK site.

The estimated cost for building the stadium itself would be
$376.6 million at each of the sites.

The Anacostia estimate also includes about $36 million in
street reconstruction and expansion of a nearby Metro rail

Mayor Anthony Williams has said the city would not pay for
these improvements under its stadium budget, and would drop
them from the plan or look for other sources to fund them,
including private developers and the federal government.

"Regardless of external factors, the District will only
issue $535 million in bonds to build the new stadium," Williams
said in a statement on Monday.

Rising land and construction materials costs have chipped
away at council support for the project in recent weeks as the
city sought additional funds from the team's owner, Major
League Baseball, in lease negotiations.

The league agreed to contribute an additional $20 million
to cover cost overruns as part of a reallocation of parking
revenues that will give the city two-thirds of non-game day
parking receipts at the facility,

Williams and other advocates of the Anacostia site view the
stadium as a catalyst for redevelopment of a run-down
neighborhood adjacent to the Washington Navy Yard.

"Our new ballpark will spark a renaissance in Southeast,
bringing apartments, condos, shops, restaurants and open space
that together could result in more than $100 million in new
revenue for the city each year," Williams said.

Separately, a city-sponsored development authority, the
Anacostia Waterfront Corp., announced it had chosen a team of
developers to create a development strategy for sites adjacent
to the proposed ballpark in the next 90 days.