- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

A key supporter of a new ballpark for the Washington Nationals said he does not believe Major League Baseball will agree to take on cost overruns for the stadium, because it currently has no control over the project.

“They wouldn’t do that, because they can’t control the cost overrun,” said Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, speaking on “DC Politics Hour” on WAMU (FM-88.5).

Evans, a chief supporter of the ballpark plan, said the council was still two votes shy of getting the seven needed to approve a lease for the ballpark and that he was still unclear what would sway stadium opponents. Placing a cap on the city’s costs for the stadium — an idea put forth by several council members who have opposed the project — is only possible if another party agrees to pay for cost overruns, Evans said.

One option being discussed by the city is selling bonds for the stadium costs, then providing that money to MLB or another party to build the stadium. In such a case, the city would be off the hook for cost overruns but would have to cede control of the project.

“If we want someone else to build the stadium and we write them a check and say, ‘Go and build the stadium and you are in charge of overruns,’ that’s a possibility,” Evans said. “But we haven’t gotten to the point of turning control of the construction of the project on to someone else.”

The last cost estimate for the stadium is $667 million, up from $535 million last year.

On Thursday, the full council met for more than four hours to discuss stadium issues, including a 10-point proposal from chairman Linda Cropp that includes a cap on the city’s responsibility for costs. But the plan does not offer a suggestion as to who would pay for overruns. And Evans said he was still unsure whether the plan, if implemented, would guarantee seven votes on the council.

“I’m frustrated,” Evans said. “From talking to many of my colleagues who are not supportive, it is hard to pin down exactly what they are looking for, and when you do accommodate them, they change their minds.”

Last week, MLB president Bob DuPuy said in a published editorial that the league never would agree to pay for cost overruns without control over the stadium’s construction.

“Asking baseball to pay for overruns when D.C. government officials are in charge of the stadium’s design and construction is like MasterCard telling you to pay your credit card bill even though MasterCard gets to do all your shopping,” he wrote.

MLB recently requested that a mediator help end the dispute over the lease after the city let a Dec. 31 deadline pass. The city hopes to schedule a vote on the lease by Feb. 7.

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