- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

D.C. Council members yesterday said they are not likely to appropriate the $750,000 Mayor Anthony A. Williams needs to fund the city’s new Office of Baseball, saying they already have committed enough public money to the Washington Nationals’ new stadium project.

“While I am in support of the idea … I am not sure that there is a need for $750,000 to support the program,” said council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, an at-large Democrat running for mayor.

Mr. Williams has said the Office of Baseball would provide “one-stop guidance” over the stadium project.

It would streamline communication between stadium stakeholders, including the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC), he said.

Mrs. Cropp said the sports commission already has been tasked with running the stadium project. She said she would support forming an Office of Baseball under existing agencies but does not want to give them additional funding.

“I’m in agreement that we need to have something that consolidates all the parts of baseball,” Mrs. Cropp said. “But I’m not going to give you $750,000 to do that.”

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said the mayor would be willing to find the money for the Office of Baseball elsewhere.

“Although the funding for this project is critical, the source funding … is not a fixed requirement,” Mr. Bobb said. “We would be willing to work with the council to ensure that the intent of this project is fulfilled through a reprogramming of existing dollars or another funding mechanism.”

The D.C. Council earlier this year approved a stadium construction contract capped at $611 million. That money will come from tax revenue generated by the ballpark and surrounding business development, not the city’s general fund.

The Office of Baseball, however, would be funded by the general fund, which council member Carol Schwartz said officials had promised not to do.

“We pledged that not one dime [for baseball] would come from the city’s general fund. I remember that promise, I remember when we voted on this,” the at-large Republican said. “Here we are, five minutes later, and $750,000 of taxpayer money is being requested. And I think that is a cause for concern.”

Development of the Southeast ballpark began last month and is scheduled to be completed for Opening Day 2008.

Officials worry that the ballpark will not meet the deadline because of squabbles over details such as stadium parking. City officials have said those arguments stem from having multiple parties with a stake in the project.

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