- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

The D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission yesterday hired Allen Y. Lew, former managing director of development at the Washington Convention Center, as president and chief executive director. The hiring completes a yearlong search that began after the departure of Bobby Goldwater.

Mr. Lew will begin Nov. 1 and serve as the city’s point man for the operation of the RFK Stadium, the D.C. Armory and the likely construction of a ballpark for the Expos, who are moving here from Montreal, as well as a nearby soccer stadium in Southeast close to the Anacostia River waterfront.

The sports commission nearly hired two other executives from the sports industry to fill its top staff position: Columbus Crew general manager and former RFK Stadium events manager Mark McCullers and Jim Cima, former director of new stadium development for the Philadelphia Eagles. But Mr. Lew’s arrival gives the sports commission someone well-versed in the labyrinth of D.C. politics and regulations who has a proven record of leading successful development projects in the city.

Before arriving in the District eight years ago, Mr. Lew was chief operating officer for New York Convention Center Operating Corp. and led the management and operation of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Mr. Lew also has a background in commercial real estate and worked as vice president of capital programs for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.

“Obviously, the opportunity to build these two stadiums was the big selling point for this job,” Mr. Lew said. “And I know this can and will get done. We did the $850 million convention center here and did it with no overruns, no major problems and no lawsuits.”

Since January, the commission has been led by Chairman Mark Tuohey, a partner with the Vinson & Elkins law firm in the District. Mr. Tuohey will remain in his role, which is a part-time volunteer post, and begin deferring some of the sports commission work to Mr. Lew.

“Allen did some excellent work with the convention center. He’s going to be a real asset to the commission,” said Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat.

Mr. Lew’s salary was not disclosed, but the position was advertised earlier this year at $180,000 a year. The salary, however, is definitely less than the $275,000 a year earned by Mr. Goldwater during his three-year tenure as sports commission president, city sources said.

Mr. Goldwater was widely praised for dramatically improving the look and operations of 43-year-old RFK Stadium. But his status as the city’s highest paid employee and lack of public-sector experience created significant friction among D.C. Council members, and Mr. Goldwater requested his contract not be renewed.

In another baseball development, a public hearing in the D.C. Council’s deliberation of the city’s ballpark financing plan is now scheduled for Oct. 28. The hearing will focus on the taxation portions of the legislation and be presided over by Mr. Evans, also chairman of the council’s finance committee.

Mr. Evans said yesterday he expects to move the bill out of committee Nov. 3 and the full council to take it up Nov. 9 for an initial reading. Approval requires two majority votes by the council.

Sports commission officials said yesterday they are working on borrowing the $13 million needed to renovate RFK Stadium for baseball from city contingency reserves. The move could provide the commission a head start on the breakneck project to have RFK ready for the Expos by Opening Day in April.

The $13 million is slated to come out of the overall ballpark financing package, now targeted at $435.2 million, and that money will not be authorized by the council until December. Once that formal approval comes, payback to the contingency reserves likely would begin in the spring.

Mr. Tuohey and other sports commission leaders also held a “productive” two-hour meeting with council members yesterday to review the detailed agreement relocating the Expos to the District.

“It was an excellent session,” Mr. Evans said. “If everyone knew the details of what’s really on the table, the type of economic development we’re attempting here, we’d have no problems. But not all of my colleagues are fully informed about this yet.”

Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, yesterday said he is seeking a change in the financing plan to provide funds for recreation centers and libraries. The money in the Graham proposal, still being developed, would come from an increase to the gross-receipts tax levied on large businesses. The tax, estimated to generate $21 million to $24 million a year, already is being pegged to fund more than half of the stadium construction costs.

Mr. Evans, meanwhile, hinted the final plan for parking at the new ballpark could reflect an increase in on-site parking. The 1,100 spaces being planned would be among the smallest allotments of on-site parking of any modern-era stadium in Major League Baseball.

S.A. Miller contributed to this article.

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