Saturday, August 28, 2004

D.C. Council finance chairman Jack Evans yesterday revealed clues on the District’s financing plans for baseball, numbers that have been closely guarded by city officials for months.

The revised plan submitted to Major League Baseball relies on fundamentally the same structure as a proposal last year. Bonds to fund the construction of a ballpark would be paid for by taxes on stadium-related commerce, annual lease payments from team owners and the reintroduction of the gross receipts tax used to fund infrastructure for MCI Center.

The exact numbers have not been released, in part because the city has not decided among its four remaining site candidates — the RFK Stadium property, Benjamin Banneker Park in Southwest, M Street Southeast and New York Avenue Northwest — or determined final building costs for any of them. But borrowing $300million would require about $25million in yearly debt service, and going up to $400million would require about $30million annually.

About $10million of that debt service bill would be paid by ballpark-related sales taxes. Between $3million and $5million, would derive from the team owner lease payments. The rest would be paid in gross receipts taxes by large District businesses, most likely those with a minimum of $2million in annual revenues.

Evans — in part responding to a recent poll commissioned by the Service Employees International Union showing skepticism for the city’s funding plan for baseball — insisted money would not be siphoned from the city’s general fund.

“There is no pot of money that is sitting under the mayor’s desk to pay for this. There isn’t one dime anywhere,” Evans said. “This happens because of the revenues you create at the venue, and as for the businesses, they’re in because they asked to be. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.”

The councilman, who has become much more engaged in recent weeks on the baseball chase, also took aim at opponents challenging the opportunity costs of building a ballpark. Since the stadium would be designed to pay for itself rather than contribute to the general fund, some critics suggest building some type of commercial building on the proposed sites would be far more beneficial.

“That’s a bunch of baloney because there’s no other building like that happening,” Evans said. “Nobody is putting up an office building next to RFK, nobody’s putting up an office building at Banneker. Nobody is proposing to build on these other sites.”

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