- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

District Mayor Anthony A. Williams will lead a delegation of city officials to Florida next weekend to attend two Washington Nationals exhibition games.

Williams plans to attend a game March5 against the Baltimore Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and then head to the Nationals’ spring training camp in Viera, Fla., the next day to see the team play Houston. He will be joined by Mark Tuohey and Bill Hall from the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission and Ward2 Democratic councilman Jack Evans.

“This is very exciting. We’re looking forward to getting down there and showing our support,” Williams said.

Williams and other city officials, however, were unable to say how the trip is being funded. During the mayor’s six-year tenure, he has come under frequent and heated criticism for a robust travel schedule that has taken him to Europe and Asia repeatedly.

Last fall, during an early flashpoint in the political battle for funding for the Nationals’ planned ballpark in Southeast, Williams, five members of the D.C. Council and eight other city employees traveled to China and Singapore for 11 days. District taxpayers paid more than $79,000 to cover airfare for the group.

To that end, Evans said he is not firmly committing to the trip until hearing more details on the funding.

“If this is going to be a huge issue with the budget cycle coming up, I don’t want to do it. We’ll have to see,” Evans said.

Meanwhile, Williams said he intends to take a particularly involved role in helping select the architect for the new ballpark, slated to open in time for the 2008 season. The sports commission has received eight proposals to win the right to design the park, with a selection due in less than three weeks.

The request for proposals lays out an aggressive agenda to create a stadium that pushes ballpark design past the rash of retro-inspired facilities of the last 13 years, as well as a seamless integration into the massive redevelopment efforts of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

“This should be absolutely the best design that fits into the overall concept of the Anacostia River waterfront,” Williams said.

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