Thursday, July 27, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams wants everyone involved in the development of the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark to just get along.

“We’ve just got to calm down and everybody get the right attitude about this,” Williams said yesterday, responding to recent criticisms from the team’s new ownership group about the city’s handling of the stadium project. “I respect the Lerner family in what they’ve accomplished in business, but we’re both in this. You put up $450million; we put $611 million. We’re trying to get some benefit from it for our people, and you know, excuse me, but we don’t need condescending attitude.”

The Lerners and Nationals president Stan Kasten, citing their experience in developing major projects, repeatedly have called the city’s plan to build parking, retail and condominiums at the Anacostia Waterfront stadium site “risky” and a threat to the ability of the city to complete the stadium by Opening Day of 2008. They also have expressed frustration over the city’s failure to meet several deadlines tied to the stadium construction.

“OK, yeah maybe I haven’t personally built a stadium,” Williams said. “But we brought into our city some $40billion in investment. Now someone must think we know what we’re doing. So let’s all calm down, work together to make this successful for everybody. I respect you all deeply and fundamentally, and I would hope it’s reciprocated.”

Kasten took a more conciliatory tone in responding to Williams’ latest remarks.

“The new Nationals ownership has nothing but appreciation and respect for the enormous work and political courage of Mayor Williams and the D.C. Council in making big league baseball a reality in the Nation’s Capital,” he said. “We have been consistently supportive of their commitment to Major League Baseball to deliver a first-class ballpark on time and on budget.”

Officials from the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission are still reviewing the parking plan to ensure it complies with the stadium lease and construction administration agreement. A final meeting with executives from Western Development, who will be in charge of the parking project, is scheduled for Monday, and the commission will vote on the plan Wednesday. If it is approved, Kasten and the Lerner family also must sign off on the parking plan for it to move forward.

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