- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Members of the D.C. Council are concerned that officials of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission misled them about the construction costs for the Cadillac Grand Prix racetrack.

Council members found out late last week that the city would be putting up nearly $5.1 million for the construction of the racetrack instead of the $3.5 million that D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission President Bobby Goldwater testified to at a hearing Thursday.

The Grand Prix races begin Friday and run through Sunday. While members of the council concede they can't stop the races, some are calling for an investigation into the financial dealings of the sports commission and for commission Chairman John L. Richardson to step down.

"Anyone who misleads the council should step down," said council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, who is a member of the council's Committee on Economic Development.

The 10-year contract the city has signed with the promoters is estimated to have an economic effect of $350 million for the city.

Mr. Fenty has been leading the charge for the council to call for full disclosure of the contract the commission has with National Grand Prix Holdings.

He said the reasons for the cost overruns are vague, but they are said to be environmental issues with the soil.

Council member Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, said he and Mr. Goldwater met yesterday to discuss how the dollars would be recouped.

"I was told the cost overruns, if there are any, would be reimbursed through federal grants or by the Grand Prix organizers," Mr. Chavous said.

The odds on the federal government reimbursing the money through grants is unlikely at best, sources close to the issue said.

Mr. Chavous said he is concerned about the "shady" business practices of Mr. Richardson. He said the chairman should take full responsibility for "shaving the truth when he feels like it" and "he should resign."

"Mr. Goldwater is just following the orders of his boss," Mr. Chavous said.

Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat and chairman of the economic development committee, said he has been told of the cost overruns. But he said as did council Chairman Linda W. Cropp that he has not seen any documentation that additional funds have been spent.

"I did hear about the [cost overruns] but I haven't had a chance to sit down with Mr. Goldwater to determine what the costs are," Mr. Brazil said.

He said he suspects that the land where the track was built parking lots 6 and 7 of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium was too unstable, causing unforeseen construction increases.

Mrs. Cropp said she has seen no evidence of the extra costs, but said she does have a copy of the contract.

"There is no reference to cost overruns in the contract or how they will be dealt with," said Mark Johnson, spokesman for Mrs. Cropp.

National Grand Prix, with help from the city, built a 1.7-mile track for the Formula 1 races, complete with bleachers, fencing, a press box and a sound-barrier wall, on the two largest parking lots at RFK Stadium.

The Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. will be the first major auto-racing event in the D.C. area in more than 80 years.

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