Saturday, March 17, 2007

D.C. auditor Deborah K. Nichols said this week that the city has not violated a $611 million cost cap on construction of a new ballpark for the Washington Nationals.

In testimony before members of the D.C. Council on Wednesday, Nichols said budget projections for certain parts of the project have increased, but that the overall project remains on budget.

Construction of the new ballpark, located along South Capitol Street near the banks of the Anacostia River, is well under way and scheduled to be completed by Opening Day of 2008.

The D.C. Council last year approved a lease agreement and sale of bonds for the new ballpark on the condition that the city’s contribution toward the stadium did not top $611 million.

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which is overseeing the ballpark construction, said it added about $4.5 million in budget items in its latest budget report, dated Jan. 31.

But Nichols said these new costs do not violate the cost cap, because the city was able to make up the difference in savings or reductions to other budget items. Commission budget figures show the city spent about $17 million less than estimates on financing for the stadium and about $2 million less than estimates on installation of utilities. The commission also reduced its contingency for the project from $19 million to about $9 million.

Several council members including David Catania, at-large Independent, have claimed that the sports commission should include the cost of improvements to Metro and roadwork as part of the ballpark budget. But Nichols said those costs, which total $36 million, are not part of the $611 million budget.

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