- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Members of the D.C. Council plan to meet today with an attorney specializing in high-level stadium negotiations in the hopes of ending a dispute with Major League Baseball over a lease for the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark in Southeast.

Louis S. Cohen, a partner with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary in Chicago, is expected to advise the council on its discussions with city officials and MLB, but it is unclear whether he will offer any concrete solutions to getting the stadium built.

Cohen was contacted by council member David Catania, at-large independent and ardent ballpark opponent. He was involved in the construction of stadiums in Cincinnati and Milwaukee, as well as discussions to bring the Montreal Expos to Northern Virginia.

Cohen did not return a call requesting comment last night.

The city has been working on persuading council members to approve the lease, but several council members said they will not approve it until a cap is placed on the amount of public money going toward the stadium. The last estimate for the ballpark was $667 million. Under the agreement signed with MLB to bring the Nationals to Washington, the city is responsible for all costs. MLB has agreed to contribute $20 million toward construction but has resisted making further contributions. The league last week filed to have a mediator help end the dispute after the city let a Dec. 31 deadline for lease approval pass.

DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary was involved in the construction of Comiskey Park in Chicago and has worked with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, MLB’s lead negotiator on the Nationals’ stadium lease. The firm also has represented Prince George’s County in the development of the Redskins’ Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, now known as FedEx Field.

The firm’s chairman is former Maine Senator George J. Mitchell, who served on an independent “blue ribbon” panel examining MLB’s economic problems in 2000.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday postponed a trip to a National League of Cities meeting in Key West, Fla., in order to continue talks with the council and members of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. Williams was aware of the council’s meeting with Cohen but did not help arrange it.

Several council and city sources said there has been some progress in establishing a cap for the city’s costs for the stadium, but a vote by the council is not expected before the end of the month.

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