- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams said yesterday he has signed an executive order to create an Office of Baseball to oversee development of the Nationals’ new ballpark and the surrounding area.

Williams said he has appointed Stephen Goldsmith, chairman of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., to head the unit, and has asked the D.C. Council to approve an annual budget of $750,000.

“My goal is to have Steve Goldsmith … provide one-stop strategic guidance over the project,” Williams said. “I love this project, it’s my baby and I want to see it successful. But I think in terms of getting things done, [the Office of Baseball] is going to provide continuity.”

Development of the ballpark began last month and is scheduled to be completed for Opening Day 2008. But the timeline has been threatened by squabbles that many city officials have said stems from having multiple parties with a stake in the project.

In particular, the AWC and D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission have disagreed on how to proceed with the construction of a garage for about 1,250 cars at the site. The AWC has said it prefers an underground lot so retail and other commercial space can be built at street level. But the sports commission only has funds to build above-ground garages and said it may not be possible to build a stadium with underground parking on time and under the city’s $611 million cost cap.

The Lerner family, which is expected to take over next month as the Nationals’ ownership group, also said it would prefer structured garages above ground.

Incoming Nationals president Stan Kasten declined to comment on the Office of Baseball idea because he was still gathering details on the proposal. But sports commission chairman Mark Tuohey said he supported it.

“It’s a good thing. … It gets all of the principals and brings them together,” he said. “I think a coordinating group makes sense.”

Sports commission CEO Allen Lew is expected to make a recommendation to the panel’s board of directors on the parking issue next week. Some expect the commission to move forward with some parking underground and some above.

City Administrator Robert Bobb said District officials planned to meet with the Lerners and officials from the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. yesterday and today to discuss possible solutions to the parking question. He said the groups would reach an agreement about the placement of the parking structure by this afternoon and that the plans would be complete when submitted to the National Capitol Planning Commission tomorrow.

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