The Washington Times - January 7, 2009, 05:10PM

Nationals Park already has a season under its belt, but the final touches on the stadium’s construction are just wrapping up. And we finally have a total price tag for the project: $693 million.

Remember when it was $535 million? Or $611 million. Or $631 million. Yeah, well that seems like ages ago.

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The sports commission is in the process of executing a “close-out’ agreement with the stadium construction team, Clark-Hunt-Smoot. Basically, the completion of that agreement means the work is done.

To be clear, the stadium was always perfectly safe and finished to the naked eye during baseball season. But there were, at the start of the season, more than 30,000 items on a punchlist that needed to be taken care of. Everything from faulty light fixtures to sprinkler heads to paint jobs, plus the team offices weren’t yet complete. It was enough that the Nationals witheld rent for most of the season until finally reaching a $4.25 million settlement over that work, plus some disputed costs. That punchlist now has just nine things left on it.

Now, let’s take a look at how the city went from $631 million—the projected cost when the D.C. Council approved the lease in 2006—to now. Where did the $60 million+ come from?

For the most part, it came from the cost of land and environmental cleanup at the site.

Original cost estimate: $111,615,782

Actual money spent: $168,969,126

In other words, buying all the land through eminent domain cost about $57 million more than expected.

But wait, you may ask, isn’t there any contingency money left over?

The answer is yes, although it’s only $735,000 out of $19.2 million.

So where did that all go? Take a look at all of the things that came in over budget:

Permit and inspections: $1.6 million over budget

Legal and accounting fees: $2 million over budget

Project management: $1.8 million

Team contingency: $5.6 million

LEED Certification: $1.012 million

Sidewalks: $7 million

Completion guarantee and incentive to Clark/Hunt/Smoot: $2 million

Now I know what you’re asking: Didn’t the council place a cost cap on how much the city could spend?

Yes, but the cap does not apply to any expenditures for land, just hard and soft costs of the stadium itself. So the sports commission will finish, just barely, under the cap. Also, the commission struck and agreement with Clark-Hunt-Smoot that caps its costs for the stadium at $442.5 million, not including land and environmental cleanup.

- Tim Lemke