- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 24, 2005

The first D.C. community-recreation project funded in part by the windfall of Major League Baseball remains incomplete, four months after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It was just not a good product,” said Clark Ray, the director of sports-facility development for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which has deemed the renovation work “unacceptable.”

At the May 17 ceremony, commission officials flanked by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Washington Nationals representatives said they had transformed the overrun Fort Greble fields into a place to play for Ward 8 children and the Ballou High School baseball team. But as of this week, the work remains unfinished.

Commission officials say they realized a few weeks after the ceremony that the $400,000 renovation project, aided by a $100,000 grant from Major League Baseball, would need its own overhaul.

Officials say the problems are the result of unsatisfactory workmanship by those hired for the project.

Primary contractor Montage Inc. subcontracted the work to Fairfax-based Time Line Construction with an April 28 deadline. The D.C.-based Montage sued Time Line earlier this month in U.S. District Court. Time Line officials could not be reached for comment.

Tony Robinson, a sports commission spokesman, said the ribbon-cutting ceremony was not premature and that it was simply to announce the partnership between the District and Major League Baseball. He also said commission officials clearly stated at the ceremony that the work was “not quite ready.”

“Should we have made the announcement?” Mr. Robinson asked himself. “Yes, because we were excited about it. It’s just taking longer to get in operation than we had thought.”

He also said the commission is disappointed by the delays but “we’d rather get it done right … to make sure it’s safe and secure.”

Mr. Ray said pools of water in the field caused officials to take a closer look, during which they found much of the sod did not take root because it was planted on rocky terrain.

He said the sports commission and the District have since installed an irrigation system to keep new turf alive and that the field will be ready by next spring so the Ballou team will have a home field.

Officials said the District will not have to spend more money to pay for the additional renovations. An attorney for Montage said the company “at great effort and expense” has hired another subcontractor to remove the old grass, grade the field and plant new sod.

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