- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Where a Washington baseball stadium could go and how it will be financed will be known by September thanks to a $300,000 research study now starting in the District.
The D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission and Washington Baseball Club, led by financier Fred Malek, have signed contracts with six companies to investigate potential sites and financing models for a new stadium.
The intent of the detailed study is to present stadium sites and a financing plan to Major League Baseball before the playoffs start. The probe will include reviews of potential transportation surrounding a local ballpark, environmental elements and accessibility. No design work of the ballpark itself will be done.
"In short, what we're after is a basic framework for a stadium that is best positioned to financially succeed and fit within the overall vision of the city," said Bobby Goldwater, commission executive director.
The general parameters for the study will be a baseball-only stadium located somewhere in the city, seating between 40,000 and 45,000 and costing about $400 million. No single choice will be presented to Major League Baseball; rather, the aim is to identify several workable choices. Early site candidates for review include Mount Vernon Square, long a favored spot among District baseball advocates, and the large swath of land adjacent to RFK Stadium.
"We want a very specific plan, a lot of meat on the bone," Malek said. His group will split the study cost with the commission. "This will give us a road map to go forward and be ready when Major League Baseball is."
District Mayor Anthony Williams last fall committed to Major League Baseball officials $200 million in public-sector assistance for a stadium. The study will seek to deliniate those public sources of funds, as well as private contributions from the Malek group and elsewhere.
The commission last surveyed potential stadium sites in early 1999. That survey, also listing Mount Vernon Square and near RFK as prominent site candidates, is now considered out of date. This new review also will include several public forums, an element considered essential in the stadium development process.
"We're still working on a schedule for the public to participate in the process, but it will absolutely happen," Goldwater said.
The six firms hired are Brailsford & Dunleavey, which works in sports facility finance; Ehren, Krantz, Eckstut, Kuhn Architects, which works in urban design; Heinlein Schrock Stearns, another architecture firm; Jair Lynch Companies, a local real estate firm; Gorove/Slade Associates, a transportation planning firm; and Justice & Sustainability Associates, specialists in public outreach.
In other local baseball news, Virginia Baseball Club chairman William Collins yesterday said a five-year extension to the exclusivity pact between his group and the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority is complete and will be announced by the end of month.
The pact continues a relationship forged in 1997 and grants Collins' group favored status to place a MLB franchise in a state-owned stadium constructed by the authority. Collins has paid $3.6 million to the stadium authority since its inception for the exclusivity rights, and the new pact is believed to be drafted along similar financial terms.
The operation of the stadium authority, however, is expected to change somewhat under the extension. Collins yesterday said he did not want to see any additional research studies or overt lobbying to MLB officials. Rather, he wants to see the authority, led by executive director Gabe Paul, spend more time helping develop a stadium financing plan and working with state legislators in Richmond.
"The document is done. But what we are continuing to do is talk to each other, voice issues and ensure we're all on the same page. We want to make sure we're not just building a bureaucracy," Collins said. "I'm not sure how much we'll see a sea change, per se, out of the authority. But we all want to be focused and very much on the same page going forward."
Paul said the authority board of directors has not yet ratified the contract extension and declined to detail where the body is on a re-evaluation of the Collins' group and its financial werewithal. Few, if any, last-minute hiccups are expected, however.
"We're still negotiating. We're not saying much until we have everything together. But [the talks] are going fine," Paul said.
Both bid groups met with the Greater Washington Board of Trade yesterday to update that group on its pursuit of a local franchise. Despite several recent comments by senior MLB officials of an impending team move to Washington, no relocation is expected until after a new labor deal with the owners is reached. And those labor negotiations are proceeding badly.
"We had all these comments from [MLB commissioner] Bud Selig and [MLB president] Bob DuPuy about baseball coming, and everyone's gotten excited," Collins said. "But the bottom line is nothing really has changed and won't change until those issues are resolved."
Also, the stadium authority last night selected four finalists to design a ballpark in Virginia. The finalists are HOK Sport of Kansas City, Mo.; HKS Inc. of Dallas, Texas; CDFN2 of Kansas City; and Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, in association with LDA Companies of Pittsburgh. The quartet has been collectively dominant in new baseball stadium design over the past decade, working on Pac Bell Park in San Francisco and PNC Field in Pittsburgh, among others. A final selection is expected by late summer.

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