- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward2 Democrat, yesterday withdrew his legislative effort to link a proposed stadium at Benjamin Banneker Park in Southwest to the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI).

Evans had sought to increase potential funding for a stadium there by using tax-increment funding from surrounding developments in and around L’Enfant Plaza, as well as access federal transportation money through the creation of an intermodal transportation center near the site.

But fears from fellow council members about siphoning money away from the long-awaited, $8 billion waterfront development and veering away from the original goals of the plan quickly sunk Evans’ effort.

“I’m not doing it, not now, not the way it’s been misconstrued,” Evans said. “There was all this frenzy and uproar and people saying all the money from the AWI is going to baseball, and that’s just not the case. This is better done at a different time.”

The Banneker site is coveted by many within the city for baseball. A radical stadium design calls for decking part of the facility above Interstate 395. If a stadium were to go there, the overarching goal would be to use a ballpark to link the Mall with the Southwest waterfront.

Evans said his amendment does nothing to alter his insistence that Major League Baseball commit the Montreal Expos to Washington before advancing stadium legislation. Nor, he says, did his legislation exclude the three other stadium site candidates being considered in the city: the RFK Stadium property, M Street Southeast and New York Avenue Northeast.

The outspoken councilman, however, could not find a way to include even the idea of a stadium into an already complex piece of legislation. During discussions with city officials over the holiday weekend, Evans did trim the language of his amendment to remove any idea of tax-increment funding and focused more on creating the intermodal transportation center and transferring control of the federally owned parcel to a quasi-public corporation leading the AWI work. Even those changes were not enough.

“We had many, many community meetings on this effort, and a stadium there is just not something where we gained community buy-in. That would be a major adjustment,” said Sharon Ambrose, Ward6 Democrat.

Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat and chair of the economic development committee, concurred.

“We’re trying to get through what’s now a reasonably clean piece of legislation,” Brazil said. “I think the idea is to get this passed. We don’t need any further controversy.”

The economic development panel yesterday approved unanimously the creation of the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation to oversee the work, and the measure now will go to the full council. Evans’ Banneker idea is still alive but is now on a decidedly slower timetable, with additional research assuming top priority. Should baseball not relocate the Expos to the District or if another stadium site in the city is selected, many of the concepts still can be applied to other ideas discussed for the site, including a museum or additional waterfront parking.

Meanwhile, Evans said he remains quite suspicious about MLB and its true intentions toward Washington. During a meeting last month with MLB’s relocation committee, panel chair Jerry Reinsdorf said the objections of the Baltimore Orioles should not be a factor in the Expos decision. But during an MLB owners’ meeting last month, commissioner Bud Selig said he remains quite concerned about the potential impact on the Orioles.

“This angers me,” Evans said. “My time is valuable. The city’s time is valuable. Did we all waste it back then? I don’t want this city played for fools. Jerry Reinsdorf conveyed to me this wasn’t an issue, and now Bud Selig says it is. So which is it?”

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