- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

Members of the D.C. Council’s Economic Development Committee are not sure whether the District’s Sports and Entertainment Commission should be abolished after the agency’s executive director, Robert D. Goldwater, steps down next month.

Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, circulated a letter to the 13-member council that details the problems with the commission’s financial structure and recommends a plan that would essentially dissolve the commission. Mr. Brazil is chairman of the council’s Economic Development Committee.

The members of the council’s committee yesterday were divided on whether to dissolve the 11-member commission.

“I think the major problems with the sports commission were management-related … but I am open to changing its structure,” said council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat.

Mr. Fenty said he would like to see what Mark H. Touhey III, the newly appointed chairman of the commission’s board of directors, will do before he makes a decision.

Mr. Goldwater’s resignation came in tandem with Mr. Brazil’s letter to the council. Mr. Goldwater said Thursday he requested not to be considered for a contract extension when his three-year pact expires Nov. 5. Mr. Goldwater is the District’s highest-paid worker, earning $275,000 a year.

In his letter and in an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Brazil questioned the continued viability of RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory — the two facilities that the commission controls.

He said the council must decide whether the District will still need the 42-year-old stadium when its principal tenant, the D.C. United soccer team, moves into a new facility, and if the city gets a Major League Baseball team.

Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said a sports commission will still be needed even if RFK and the Armory are not around. “The sports commission is intended to oversee sports and entertainment. … If we build a new baseball stadium or soccer stadium, the city will own it and the sports commission will oversee them,” he said.

In his letter, Mr. Brazil suggested the commission be split into two agencies. One would focus on promoting the city and its sports and entertainment facilities, while the other would focus on the operations of RFK and the Armory. The latter entity could be housed in an existing D.C. agency such as the Office of Property Management, Mr. Brazil said.

Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, said the issue should be fleshed out. “We’ll have to study the merits of the proposal and do some research to see what other cities are doing and determine the best model,” said Eric Rogers, a spokesman for Mr. Chavous.

Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and the fifth committee member, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, John J. Mahoney, interim chairman of the sports commission, said a search committee will be appointed to find a new director to replace Mr. Goldwater. He said the search is expected to take several months.

A former manager of New York’s Madison Square Garden and Los Angeles’ Staples Center, Mr. Goldwater was hired because of his managerial expertise and the prospect of his bringing baseball back to the city.

Mr. Goldwater played an instrumental role in many improvements to RFK and the Armory, as well as to land a baseball team. However, the commission posted seven-figure losses in two of three fiscal years under Mr. Goldwater and was headed toward another year in the red, having depleted more than $15 million of an $18 million fiscal reserve.

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