- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

D.C. officials yesterday received eight offers to supply private financing for the baseball stadium planned for Southeast, a number far below what was expected when the city issued a request for proposals last month.

The city has set a goal of funding at least 50 percent of stadium costs with private money, a benchmark created by D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp.

City officials received more than 30 unsolicited proposals of private financing before the formal search began Dec. 23. However, the District required a nonrefundable, $10,000 fee to participate in the official process led by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi, a requirement that likely discouraged other suitors.

“We received eight plans, each proposing to provide private support for the development of the stadium, which may, in turn, reduce the required gross-receipts fee” on large D.C. businesses to pay construction costs, Mr. Gandhi said in a letter sent to Mayor Anthony A. Williams and each council member.

Mr. Gandhi has until March 15 to review the proposals. Mr. Williams is required to choose among the offers certified by Mr. Gandhi and submit at least one for approval by the council.

“I definitely thought we would have more than eight offers come in with all the calls and letters we had [in December],” said Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. “But we’ll have to see what the analysis bears out. I hope we have a serious group of offers. I do think the $10,000 fee was a smart idea to get the people who are really committed to this.”

The deadline to submit proposals was noon yesterday.

City officials declined to release the names of the eight bidders, but several are known. Perhaps foremost among them is BW Realty Advisors LLC, an organization based in Northwest and in New Hampshire that helped turn Mrs. Cropp’s attention to private financing for the ballpark in the fall.

BW proposed to lease the stadium site from the District and finance the construction of the ballpark. In return, it would get lease payments on the stadium from the Washington Nationals, parking revenues and tax breaks from the depreciation of the property.

“We have put together a 100 percent privately financed stadium plan, soup to nuts, with a 7,000-space garage,” said Richard Gross, BW Realty Advisors manager. “We have filed, and we feel very strongly about the merits of our proposal.”

The 7,000 parking spaces called for in the BW proposal would be a substantial increase over the 1,100 on-site spaces planned for the stadium.

The Gates Group, a firm based in Cleveland, proposed to use revenue from a curbside parking program to defray the cost of the stadium to the city.

The Gates plan called for an upfront payment of $100 million to the city. In return, Gates would get a portion of the revenue from high-tech meters in a parking district established around the stadium site.

That plan was close to certification from Mr. Gandhi last month and was considered by Mrs. Cropp and Mr. Williams to be a default source of private funds if other viable offers did not materialize.

Georgetown developer Herb Miller proposed a master development plan for the stadium site and the area directly north of it, city sources said. Mr. Miller’s plan includes retail and office space.

If Mr. Gandhi is unable to certify any of the eight offers, the previous stadium financing plan will be used. That plan calls for funding the stadium with a combination of ballpark-related sales taxes, annual lease payments from the Nationals, utility taxes on large businesses and federal government entities and the gross-receipts tax.

The search for private funding is complicated by the fact that many of the major sources of revenue from the project — luxury seats in the stadium, in-stadium sponsorship and ticket taxes — have been earmarked either for the city or the Nationals.

“This is a very difficult piece of business,” said one official familiar with the stadium deal. “This contract with Major League Baseball doesn’t leave much else on the table.”

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