Multiple city officials said that Adrian M. Fenty, while mayor, used the excess revenues to balance the District’s operating budget. But the council under Chairman Vincent C. Gray, now mayor, passed a budget bill in December 2010 to phase out the practice by fiscal 2015.
Mr. Evans is steadfast in his belief that the city should use the excess revenue to prepay the ballpark bonds instead of raiding the fund once more. Paying down the bond debt quickly would allow the city to one day eliminate the ballpark fee, an assessment of $16,500 per year for business that generate $16 million or more in gross receipts.
“My predisposition is to try to get these things paid off as fast as possible and then the ballpark fee would go away,” Mr. Evans said, noting the remaining revenue sources then could go into the general fund. “That’s the deal we made with them and businesses recognize that.”
Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said the city’s business community “of course looks forward to the end of the ballpark fee.”
“But we recognize that one good season is not enough for it to be rescinded,” she said. “Unfortunately, the bond market doesn’t work that way.”
City officials said that businesses theoretically could obtain rebates for their fees but the amount of the fee cannot be lowered because it is written into the bond covenants.
Meanwhile, development around the ballpark near Southeast also has been slower than many fans anticipated, leaving few viable dining and entertainment options before and after games. Mr. Evans said critics should look at the decade-long growth of the Gallery Place area after Verizon Center opened in the late 1990s.
“I knew baseball would be successful in the District,” Mr. Evans said. “I said at the time, and I say it again today — it was a 10-year project of which we’re only five years into it.”
Ms. Lang said the business community realizes it made a commitment to transforming the community around the ballpark “for the long haul.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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