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Letter Report: Responses to Specific Questions Regarding the District’s Proposed Baseball Stadium
November 12, 2004




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717 14TH STREET N.W., SUITE 900
TEL. 202-727-3600 • FAX: 202-724-8814

Deborah K. Nichols
District of Columbia Auditor 


Letter Report: Responses to Specific Questions Regarding the District's Proposed Baseball Stadium

November 12, 2004

717 14TH STREET N.W., SUITE 900
TEL. 202-727-3600 • FAX: 202-724-8814

Deborah K. Nichols
District of Columbia Auditor 


The Honorable Adrian M. Fenty 
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 506 
Washington, D.C. 20004

Letter Report: Responses to Specific Questions Regarding the District's Proposed Baseball Stadium

Dear Councilmember Fenty:

This letter report presents the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor's ("ODCA") responses to specific questions raised in your correspondence to this office regarding the District's proposed baseball stadium.

The Auditor's analysis indicates that certain cost estimates contained in the proposed baseball stadium budget of $435,200,000 may be seriously underestimated and therefore are not representative of the true costs of the project. The Auditor found that:

  • the District has not yet acquired any of the land at the proposed South Capitol Street stadium site;
  • the current estimate of $65 million for the acquisition of land is not based on an actual appraisal of the 67 properties at the proposed South Capitol Street site;
  • the utility budget of $857,000 was not based on a specific site analysis and does not include any costs related to work that may have to be performed by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), or other utility companies;
  • the estimate for some infrastructure costs appears unrealistic and does not include costs related to highway and road improvements that must be performed by the District's Department of Transportation (DDOT), or modifications, expansions and improvements related to the Navy Yard subway station which are estimated at approximately $60 million depending upon the outcome of key final decisions which have not yet been made;
  • few analyses support the contention that a new stadium will stimulate increased business development and the creation of new permanent jobs except for low paying temporary jobs, such as concession sales, ticket takers and ushers, that only last during the game season and generally do not provide health, disability, and other benefits;
  • while difficult to quantify in an exact dollar amount, there is a high probability there will be construction cost overruns. Our examination of construction costs for eight (8) stadiums revealed that all of them experienced cost overruns resulting from numerous factors including design changes, land acquisition costs, and delays attributable to weather conditions.

The following discussion relates to specific questions you have asked us to address.


RESPONSE: As you are aware, the Baseball Stadium Agreement dated September 29, 2004, estimates the total project cost for the proposed new 1,050,000 gross square foot, 41,000 seat baseball stadium at $435,200,000.1 The projected cost includes: (1) cost of construction/hard costs (2) soft costs (3) and ancillary costs. Subsequently, in a fiscal impact statement issued by the District's CFO on October 27, 2004, the estimate was revised upwards to $486.2 million. The CFO's revised estimate does not include $40 million in project financing costs that were included in the original project budget.2 The estimated project costs per the September 29, 2004 Agreement, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia (CFO), and the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor are presented in Table I.


Category Estimate Per Agreement Estimate Per CFO Estimate Per Auditor
Base Building Cost $244,100,000 $244,100,000 $244,100,000
Hard Cost Contingency3 19,500,000 19,500,000 19,500,000
Ballpark Soft Costs 35,300,0004 35,300,000 35,300,000
Soft Cost Contingency 1,800,000 1,800,000 1,800,000
Infrastructure -0- 50,000,000 61,100,000
Additional Contingency -0- 30,000,000 60,000,000
Land 65,000,000 65,000,000 71,500,0005
RFK 13,000,0006 18,500,000 18,500,000
RFK Contingency -0- 5,500,000 5,500,000
Parking 16,500,000 16,500,000 16,500,000
Financing 40,000,000 -0- 50,000,000
Total $435,200,000 $486,200,000 $583,800,000

Source: Stadium Financing Plan Exhibit A Budget, CFO Fiscal Impact Statement dated October 27, 2004

The Auditor's analysis found that the $435.2 million proposed budget is not based on firm cost estimates in that there are a number of cost estimates that maybe subject to significant change as discussed below.

  • Land Acquisition - The M Street site, also referred to as the South Capitol Street site, contains residential as well as commercial properties:
    1. none of the properties are presently owned by the District government. The District proposes to acquire these properties by purchasing directly from owners or by Eminent Domain.
    2. given the substantial growth of commercial and residential property values in the District, the market value of these properties may be significantly higher than the $65 million that is currently budgeted. It is likely that the amount needed to purchase these properties may well exceed the $65 million budget. Further, in order to acquire the properties the District may have to exercise its eminent domain authority which can be a time consuming and costly process.
    3. the $65 million estimate was not based on an appraisal of the 67 properties at the proposed South Capitol Street site. An actual appraisal may yield different results. The $65 million estimate appears to be primarily based on a comparison of the sales price of six comparable properties sold between May 2000 and January 2002. The sales prices were adjusted approximately 5% each year to reflect potential sales price increases between May 2000 and 2003.
  • Infrastructure - Based on the Auditor's analysis, the proposed budget does not reflect realistic infrastructure costs:
    1. the budgeted infrastructure costs appear to be significantly understated. According to District officials, the $857,000 utility estimate7 is based on general knowledge of the site but no specific site analysis has been performed. As a result, there may be unknown costs that have not yet been determined and factored into the estimate;
    2. the estimates do not reflect critical infrastructure costs related to the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. Presently, no estimate has been developed. Therefore, at present this cost is unknown and not reflected in the overall cost of the ballpark project;
    3. an estimated $15 million in road and highway improvements as estimated by the DDOT are also not reflected in the budget presented in the Agreement. The Auditor notes that the CFO included an estimate of $15 million for basic road improvements;
    4. costs of potential modifications, expansions and improvements to the Navy Yard subway station at the proposed new site by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) were not included in the $435.2 million project estimate. In discussions with WMATA officials, the Auditor found that one option related to infrastructure improvements that District officials could consider at the Navy Yard subway station is expansion of the west entry and mezzanine stairs, elevators, escalators, and fare gates. WMATA estimates the cost of this option at $46.7 million. Should the District choose this option, the District would be responsible for the $46.7 million cost which is not presently reflected in the ballpark budget.8 The Auditor notes that for comparison purposes the expansion of the Metro station at Gallery Place for the MCI center cost approximately $18 million in 1995, which was paid by the District. The cost for improvements at the DC Convention Center Metro station in 2000 totaled $32 million.
    5. another option the District may consider involves WMATA providing shuttle bus service from the Stadium Armory or various other Metro stations to the new stadium on game days. By way of comparison, WMATA provides shuttle bus service for every Redskins game using 120 buses at a cost of $120,000 per game for an estimated 20,000 people. The baseball team is expected to play approximately 81 games annually at the South Capitol Street stadium site. If this option is selected and WMATA uses the same number of buses to transport baseball fans at a cost of $120,000 per game, the District could annually pay an estimated $9,720,000.
  • The $22 million estimate for demolition and site clearing also appears low given the number of properties located at the site. Further, the estimate does not include any costs of removing or remediating environmental hazards that may be found at the site.

The estimate as contained in the September 29, 2004 Agreement for renovation of the existing RFK stadium is $13 million. In information subsequently provided by a representative of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission (DCSEC), the $13 million was revised upwards to $18.5 million. The revised estimate of $18.5 million now includes estimated costs for non-normal working hours (shift work) and overtime costs. The proposed $18.5 million will also cover the following components: clubhouse; playing field and equipment; media; infrastructure; and the increased costs associated with completing these areas by the required due date as well as related overtime costs.

  1. the schedule associated with the renovation of these components is very aggressive and, according to the plan submitted to the Auditor, was to commence September 2004 and conclude March 2005.
  2. the plan provides for major renovation components such as the removal of the existing playing field and installation of a new drainage system, renovation of dugouts, erecting batters' eye and tunnels, installation/renovation of sports lighting to take place during the months of December through February.
  3. typical weather patterns for the winter months in D.C. can be challenging due to cold temperatures, snow, and ice. This may impact the proposed schedule causing delays and forcing cost overruns.
  4. the DCSEC, the organization responsible for the RFK Stadium, is only in the preliminary stages of the renovation project. At the time of our review, DCSEC representatives indicated that MLB has not yet approved the final scope of work for renovations at RFK.
  5. although DCSEC had issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), they had only begun to evaluate bids. To date, no contracts have been awarded for any of the proposed work at RFK stadium. The stadium agreement stipulates all work at RFK will be completed by April 1, 2005. The estimated costs for this work, which must be fast tracked, may actually be significantly higher than the revised $18.5 million estimate unless aggressive cost containment controls are put into place.9

A comparison of the District's proposed new stadium costs to other facilities is presented in Table II below.

Table II
Comparison of District's Costs for a New Stadium to Other Stadiums

Facility Opening Date Team Total Cost Seating Capacity Cost Per Seating Capacity
South Capitol Street Site 2008 Washington, D.C. $435,200,00010 41,000 $10,615
Citizens Bank Park 2004 Philadelphia Phillies $458,000,000 43,500 $10,529
Petco Park 2004 San Diego Padres $449,400,000 46,000 $9,770
Miller Park 2001 Milwaukee Brewers $322,000,000 42,400 $7,594
Comerica Park 2000 Detroit Tigers $300,000,000 40,637 $7,382
Minute Maid Park 2000 Houston Astros $286,000,000 40,950 $6,984
SBC Park 2000 San Francisco Giants $255,000,000 41,503 $6,144
PNC Park 2001 Pittsburgh Pirates $216,000,000 38,365 $5,630

Source: Team Websites / National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School.

Until contracts are negotiated and final prices agreed upon regarding critical components related to construction of the new baseball stadium, renovation of RFK, and other integral components of this project, costs are uncertain and therefore subject to significant change. The Auditor found that the current estimate for components such as land acquisition, infrastructure, and the renovation of the RFK stadium do not realistically enough reflect the estimated costs for these elements and may be significantly understated. Based on the Auditor's analysis, approximately $583.8 million maybe required for the proposed South Capitol Street stadium and for the renovation of the RFK stadium. The $583.8 million represents $148.6 million, or 34%, more than the proposed budget contained in the September 29, 2004 Agreement.


RESPONSE: According to the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004," the bonds that will be issued to finance the construction of a new stadium or arena in the District of Columbia will be Revenue Bonds not General Obligation Bonds which are backed by the full faith and credit of the District of Columbia government. The Auditor requested an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia (OAG) on this matter. According to the OAG since debt service on the bonds is to be paid only from certain specified and limited revenue sources, the bonds will not be general obligations of the District and will not affect the District's debt limit as specified under Section 603(b) of the Home Rule Act. According to the OAG, the issuance of these revenue bonds will not affect the District's debt limit or bond rating. Specifically, the OAG indicated:

"Section 490(j) of the Home Rule Act (D.C. Official Code § 1-204.90(j) (2001)), provides that bonds "issued under subsection (a)(1) of this section are not general obligation bonds of the District government and shall not be included in determining the aggregate amount of all outstanding obligations subject to the limitation specified in § 1-206.03 (b).

Section 4(a)(2) of the Bill defines "Bonds" as those bonds "authorized to be issued pursuant to Section 490 of the Home Rule Act, as implemented by this act." Section 4(d) of the Bill mandates that the Bonds shall contain a legend stating that the Bonds are special obligations of the District, are nonrecourse to the District, are not a pledge of the credit and taxing power of the District and are not a debt of the District. Debt service on the Bonds is to be paid only from certain specified, and limited, revenue sources."

Based on the opinion of the OAG, it appears that the proposed Revenue Bond issue will not affect the District's debt limit.


RESPONSE: According to information from the Mayor's Office of Planning and Economic Development, the District anticipates the creation of 291 new jobs related to Major League Baseball. Of the 291 jobs, 98 are directly related to baseball and stadium operations and the remaining 193 are spinoff jobs such as those in the hospitality industry. Table III presents a breakdown of the expected new jobs as well as the portion related to the District.

Table III
Estimated New Jobs from New Stadium and Impact on DC

New Jobs for DC Residents # of Jobs Total Projected Wages
MLB Team Players 2 $26,046,085
Coaches & Trainers 2 497,156
Sales, General & Administrative 7 3,466,187
Maintenance 2 43,572
Concessionaire 63 1,264,112
Merchandise Retailer 15 294,959
Contract Labor 3 57,188
Police/Emergency Services 4 149,445
Total 98 $31,818,704
Other Jobs - New to District
Parking 23 $392,548
Hotel 69 1,418,741
Food & Beverage 53 1,089,882
Retail 22 440,802
Transportation 26 673,006
Total New Other Jobs 193 $4,014,979
Total New Wages 291 $35,833,683

Source: Information from District's Office of Economic Development, Economics Research Associates Data dated October 24, 2004

According to an analysis by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute dated June 9, 2003:

  1. a publicly financed baseball stadium would not provide the payoff the District is anticipating;
  2. baseball would not create good jobs for DC residents, boost the local economy, and is unlikely to spur economic development in the area around the stadium;11 and
  3. because stadiums do not contribute strongly toward economic growth, public subsidies for stadium construction generally do not generate enough new tax revenue to offset the construction costs. The analysis cited a study of 25 stadiums built between 1978 and 1992 that found none of the stadiums generated a net increase in tax revenue for the host city and that even Baltimore's Camden Yards, which is considered a successful stadium by most, is a net loser for the state.

Another study entitled "Baseball and the American City: An examination of public financing and stadium construction in American professional sports," by Brian Reich dated April 30, 2001, indicates that, with regard to the economic benefit and employment impacts from sports construction, there is "no statistically significant economic benefit to building a stadium." The analysis references research conducted by Robert Baade of Lake Forest College on 30 cities over a 30-year period which found that there was no significant impact from new stadiums built in these cities and in three of the cities there was a negative economic impact. The analysis concluded that three factors determine the economic viability of a stadium plan. The factors are:

  • opportunity cost - the economic theory that the true cost of using a resource is the value of the next-highest valued alternative use of that resource. In other words, investing in a sports stadium means an investment cannot be made in other alternatives such as schools, new parks, or to increase the police force, firefighters, or teachers.
  • substitution effect or shifting current spending - under this theory, stadium construction generates a shift in discretionary entertainment spending from one form to another. Basically, individuals have a certain budget they may spend on entertainment and when those funds are spent if they shift that spending to a ball game then they may forgo spending on another form of entertainment.
  • outside expenditures - under this theory, a stadium could generate new money for a metropolitan area if it attracted a significant percentage of its fans from outside the immediate area around the stadium or arena and outside the District. In some studies, Oriole Park is regarded as one of the most successful facilities to benefit from this arrangement largely because the park is 40 miles from the District of Columbia which at the time of the analysis had no major league baseball team. The analysis further states that "the net gain to Baltimore's economy in terms of new jobs and incremental tax revenues is only about $3 million a year."

Based on the Auditor's research:

  1. most studies and analyses fail to support the contention that a new stadium in and of itself will generate increased business development and the creation of new permanent jobs that will significantly add revenue to the tax base.
  2. there is inherent economic risk in outer years associated with the proposed new stadium once the "novelty effect" diminishes. The risks are: (1) attendance dropping substantially; (2) an economic downturn affecting household disposable income; (3) businesses leaving the District thereby shrinking the pool from which gross receipts taxes are collected; and (4) significant parking and transportation issues. These elements must be considered in the evaluation of the true economic impact of Major League Baseball on the District.


RESPONSE: Our research found that the financing of stadium construction as well as rent payments made by individual teams varied widely. All of the teams included in the Auditor's analysis contributed some funds toward the construction of their stadiums with the exception of one team. The Agreement between the District and MLB does not require the team to contribute any funds directly toward the cost of stadium construction. Table IV below presents the Auditor's analysis.

Table IV
Comparative Data for Other Teams

Team, Year Built and Cost in Millions Rent Other Team Provisions Financing Team Financing Contribution
District of Columbia Projected 2008, $435.2 $3.5 million up to $5.5 by year 6 and increasing 2% thereafter12 $5.3 million annual license fee-or a total of $15.9 million only while at RFK stadium.13 Tax on gross receipts on selected businesses. (Projected to be approximately $24 million per year) NONE
Baltimore Orioles (Oriole Park at Camden Yards) 1992-$235 Seven percent of net admissions receipts. Team pays Maryland Stadium Authority (owner) between 1.7 percent and 7.5 percent of gross concessions revenues. Authority operates parking but team receives 50 percent of net receipts. Team retains 90 percent of luxury suite rentals, signage and club seat revenues. Financed with $137 million in lease revenue bonds and $60 million in lease revenue notes issued by the stadium authority. The debt is being repaid from revenue generated by special sports theme lottery tickets. The remaining costs were covered with cash that accumulated in the lottery fund since it was established in 1988 to finance sports stadiums. Team contributed $9 million for construction of skyboxes.
Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ball Park) $320-2003 $2.5 million annually for 9 years, then $1 per year for the remaining years of the lease. n/a Publicly financed through a $44 million revenue bond issue to accommodate football and baseball. Bond debt is serviced with stadium revenues. One-half cent sales tax increase. $30 million up front toward construction, $10 million at groundbreaking and $10 million when the stadium is completed.
Colorado Rockies (Coors Field) 1995-$215 Team pays the Authority 2.5 percent of the team's net taxable income if the partners take a 5 percent cash return in any given year on their paid-in capital Team retains all revenues generated at the stadium, including all suite, club seat, signage, and concessions revenues. Team also receives all revenue from the sale of naming rights. Team is responsible for park maintenance and operations. The legislature created the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District in the six counties surrounding Denver. The district issued bonds and levied a one-tenth of 1% sales tax within the six-county area to fund the stadium. The tax remains in place until the bonds are paid off in about 10 years. Rockies contributed $53 million.
Cleveland Indians (Jacobs Field) 1994-$173 $.75 per ticket sold after 1.85 million paid admissions up to 2.25 million; $1 per ticket between 2.25 and 2.5 million attendance; and $1.25 per ticket for attendance above 2.5 million. Team retains all parking, signage, concessions, and luxury and club seat revenues. Built as a part of a city sports complex that was funded both publicly and privately. The Gateway Economic Development Corp. issued $117 million in bonds backed by voter approved countywide sin taxes on alcohol ($3/gallon on liquor, 16 cents/gallon on beer) and cigarettes (4.5 cents/pack) for 15 years. They also issued $31 million in stadium revenue bonds. The Gateway Corp. received about $20 million up front from early seat sales. None indicated
Houston Astros (Minute Maid Park) 2000-$286 $4.6 million Team pays $2.5 million to capital improvements fund $180 million, financed by a 2% hotel tax and a 5 percent rental-car tax. $33 million financed from a no interest loan. Astros owners contributed $52 million
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Tropicana Field) $85 in 1990, renovated in 1998-$65 $.50 for each ticket sold up to 3.3 million tickets and $.75 above 3.3 million, with the first $250,000 of these funds paid into a maintenance account. Team operates and maintains stadium and receives a $4.2 million management from the city. Team retains all revenues generated for baseball and non-baseball events. Team also retains between 80 and 85 percent of naming rights to stadium. The city of St. Petersburg issued general obligation bonds to fund construction. The bond debt is being partially serviced through a 1% increase in the county wide bed tax. A tourist development commission issued additional bonds for $62 million to renovate the stadium for the new baseball stadium. The debt is serviced by a combination of bed tax revenues, stadium revenues and city general fund monies. Team contributed $14 million to the renovation project. Team qualified for the state rebate program designed to attract new teams to Florida.

Source: National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School; Sports, Jobs & Taxes, the Economic Impacts of Sports Teams and Stadiums by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, Editors and Team websites.

Based on the Auditor's comparison of financing and rent paid by other Major League Baseball teams, it appears that there are a variety of financing arrangements and rent payments from the various teams. A number of teams pay rent based on a percentage of the number of tickets sold while in other instances, rent is paid based on a percentage of the admission receipts. In comparison, the District's rent proposal is projected at $3.5 million to $5.5 million in years one through six, and increases 2% annually thereafter. The Auditor also notes that a number of other teams contributed to the construction cost of their stadium, many times making a direct cash contribution.


RESPONSE: In accordance with the Agreement signed on September 29, 2004 between the District and Baseball Expos, L.P., the District is not entitled to any naming rights revenue. Further the Agreement did not provide an estimate of the revenue that would be generated from naming rights. According to officials in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Section 6.05 of the Agreement, entitled "Allocation of stadium Revenues:"

"The Lease shall provide that, as between the Commission and the Team, all Stadium Revenues shall belong to the Team. [Auditor's Emphasis] Revenues from the Commission's permitted usage of the Baseball Stadium as described in Section 6.03 and from any Commission Additions shall belong to the Commission. Other revenues that may be derived from the Baseball Stadium shall be allocated as mutually agreed between the Team and the Commission."

The Auditor identified the value of stadium naming rights for other stadiums. Similar values for naming rights may be negotiated for the District's proposed stadium. Naming rights agreements, as of June 2004 are presented in Table V.

Table V
Naming Rights

District of Columbia Team To be located in DC n/a n/a $0 $0
Arizona Diamonds Bank One Ballpark 1995 30 $66 $2.2
Chicago White Sox U.S. Cellular 2003 23 $68 $3
Cincinnati Reds Great American Ball
2003 30 $75 $2.5
Cleveland Indians Jacobs Field 1994 20 $13.9 $.70
Colorado Rockies Coors Field 1995 Indefinite period $15 n/a*
Detroit Tigers Comerica Park 1998 30 $66 $2.2
Houston Astros Minute Maid Park 2002 28 $10014 $3.6
Milwaukee Brewers Miller Park not known 20 $41 $2.1
Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park 1998 20 $40 $2
San Diego Padres Petco Stadium 2003 22 $60 $2.7
San Francisco Giants SBC Park 2000 24 $50 $2.1
Seattle Mariners Safeco Field 1998 20 $40 $2
Tampa Bay Devil Rays Tropicana Field not known 30 $50 $1.5
Texas Rangers Ameriquest Field in Arlington 2004 30 $75 $2.5

Source: National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School 
*n/a: not applicable


RESPONSE: According to the September 29, 2004 Agreement, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission shall be responsible for all cost overruns except for those related to design changes proposed by the team. Section 4.06 of the Agreement stipulates the following regarding baseball stadium cost overruns:

"The Construction Administration Agreement shall provide that any excess of the total cost of the Baseball Stadium over the Baseball Stadium Budget shall be borne by the Commission except: (I) implemented program changes requested by the Team after approval of the Project Program Statement; (ii) implemented design changes requested by the Team after approval of the Baseball Stadium Plans and specifications; (iii) other implemented change orders requested by the Team or caused by the oversight, negligence or willful misconduct of the Team that cause an overrun in the budget allocation for such item; (iv) Project delays resulting from the Team's non-compliance with deadlines or other requirements set forth in this Agreement or the Construction Administration Agreement; and (v) design changes necessitated by changes in Baseball Rules and Regulations." [Auditor's Emphasis]

Based upon our evaluation of published information and discussions with experts in the field including sports economists, there is a high probability there will be cost overruns. The Auditor reviewed numerous studies including written publications of arenas, ballparks, and stadiums and found that there is overwhelming evidence to support cost overruns. For example, the Auditor examined the construction costs of eight stadiums and found that in each instance there were cost overruns ranging from $26 million to $100 million. The Auditor found that the cost overruns were the result of numerous factors including:

  1. design changes;
  2. delays caused by weather conditions; and
  3. land acquisition costs.

The Auditor interviewed several economists including Andrew Zimbalist, professor at Smith College, regarding this subject.15 Mr. Zimbalist indicated that it is universal to have some form of cost overruns which in the modest range could run between 10% to 20% and in the high range between 20% to 50%. He further stated that overall in 30% to 35% of the cases there were cost overruns associated with the construction of new stadiums.

According to an analysis entitled, "Baseball and the American City: An examination of public financing and stadium construction in American professional sports," dated April 30, 2001:16

"Cost overruns are extremely likely in stadium projects. Overruns often run to 40% and can run as high as 500% -- a recent study cited by New York magazine of fourteen stadium projects revealed an average construction cost overrun of 73%. Of the four cities that have most recently construction [sic] major sports facilities- Seattle, Denver, Houston and Pittsburgh - the costs have exceeded even what independent analysts predicted. The potential danger to local taxpayers, however, only exists only when the public sector participants are expected to pay. Safeco Field in Seattle, the first baseball stadium with full retractable roof, was built at a cost of $517 million, and was more than $100 million over projections. At the same time, the Seattle Mariners were responsible for cost overruns, so the public was protected."

In light of the historical trends and based on using the low end estimate of 40% as presented in "Baseball and the American City" by Brain Reich, the District may experience cost overruns anywhere between $60 and $174 million above the original estimate of $435.2 million. It appears that, based on the Agreement as presently structured, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission (Commission) would bear responsibility for covering these cost overruns unless the overruns resulted from design changes proposed by the team. The question regarding the source of funds for the Commission to pay for any cost overruns has not been answered. This question should be answered in detail before the Council approves financing for the stadium project. If the Commission cannot finance cost overruns, the question becomes what will be the source of funds to cover these expenditures.

Cost overrun data for seven stadiums is presented in Table VI below. The Table includes data for basketball, hockey, football and baseball stadium construction.

TABLE VI Stadium Cost Overruns (millions)

Carolina Hurricanes Entertainment Sports Arena $130 $26 $156 Design changes requested by team and Centennial Authority, in addition to weather conditions
Cincinnati Bengals Paul Brown Stadium $287 $52 $339 Changes from original plans, project delays, and additional expenses caused by weather and conditions and land acquisition
Cleveland Browns Cleveland Browns Stadium $280 $28 $308 weather, additional construction costs.
Cleveland Cavaliers Gund Arena $152 $76 (combined cost overruns from Gund Arena project.) Combined with Jacobs Field Construction costs
Cleveland Indians Jacobs Field $173 $76 (combined cost overruns from Gund Arena Project) Combined with Gund Arena Construction cost
Houston Texans Reliant Stadium $310 $57 (to date) $367 Unknown
Seattle Mariners Safeco Field $417 $100 $517 Accelerated construction schedule, architectural flaws, and construction overruns.

Source: Team Websites /National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School.


Although the current proposal is to construct a new stadium at the South Capitol Street site, the Auditor notes that if the District were to consider building a new stadium at the RFK stadium site, some costs could be avoided.

Based on the Auditor's analysis, a major cost component with the proposed new stadium is land costs, which as discussed previously is seriously underestimated. The District would, at a minimum, recognize cost savings associated with acquiring the land. Additionally, there are several other costs which would not be necessary at the RFK stadium site such as parking, Metro enhancements, and substantial road improvements. Further, the Auditor anticipates that the financing costs would be streamlined to compensate for the reduced cost of the stadium. As a result, the Auditor estimates that approximately $101.5 million, or 23%, could possibly be saved. Table VII presents this information.


Project Category (A) Estimated Cost South      
Capitol Street Site (B)
Estimated Costs RFK Site (C) Variance (B-C)
Ballpark Hard Costs $263,600,000 $263,600,000 -0-
Ballpark Soft Costs 37,100,000 37,100,000 -0-
Total Ballpark Cost $300,700,000 $300,700,000 -0-
Ancillary Project Costs
Land $65,000,000 -0- (65,000,000)
RFK 13,000,000 13,000,000 -0-
Parking 16,500,000 -0- (16,500,000)
Financing 40,000,000 20,000,000 (20,000,000
Total Ancillary Costs $134,500,000 $33,000,000 $101,500,000
Total $435,200,000 $333,700,000 $101,500,000

Source: Office of the District of Columbia Auditor


With the numerous uncertainties regarding the District's proposal to construct a new baseball stadium at the South Capitol Street site, the Auditor found that the current proposed budget for construction of the new stadium is incomplete.

Based on the Auditor's analysis of the estimated cost of renovating RFK stadium and constructing a new stadium at the South Capitol Street site, it appears that a number of factors that may increase the overall cost were not included. These factors include the following: (1) cost of improvements to the Navy Yard Metro Station; (2) infrastructure improvements to roads that would be made by the District's Department of Transportation; and (3) the utility budget does not include any costs related to work that may have to be performed by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority or other utility companies. Other factors that may affect the estimated budget include the following: (1) the current estimate of $65 million for land is incomplete; and (2) the District may have to acquire some land by eminent domain which may be costly and time consuming.

Further, based on the Auditor's examination of cost overruns for seven stadiums, as well as information from other sources, it is highly probably that there will be substantial cost overruns. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission will be responsible for these overruns if they are not the result of design changes by the team. The source of funds to be used by the Commission to pay for any such overruns should be determined in advance of the Council's approval of financing for the new stadium.

The Auditor's analysis determined that the cost of the proposed South Capitol Street stadium and renovations to the RFK stadium could reach approximately $583.4 million.

Deborah K. Nichols
District of Columbia Auditor

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1. See, Baseball Stadium Agreement between the Government of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Commission and Baseball Expos, L.P. dated September 29, 2004.

2. See, Fiscal Impact Statement: "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004" Bill 15-1028 as introduced, dated October 27, 2004.

3. An amount built-in to provide for increases in hard costs such as the base building cost and parking structure costs.

4. The soft cost estimates include architectural and engineering design fees; survey, testing and inspection fees; legal and accounting fees; project management fees; direct project owner expenses; and a project contingency.

5. The Auditor included an additional estimated $6.5 million necessary to purchase properties they are not purchased until 2005.

6. The $13 million estimate for renovation of the RFK stadium was included in the proposed budget in the Stadium Agreement signed by the District of Columbia and Major League Baseball dated September 29, 2004. In testimony on the "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004" dated October 27, 2004, the District's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) estimate for the renovation was $18.5 million along with a $5.5 million contingency.

7. The $857,000 represents the estimate for utility costs and was presented in an October 5, 2004 analysis by Turner Construction.

8. In discussions with WMATA officials, they indicated that the District could consider enacting legislation that would require businesses operating in that area to share in the cost of upgrading, renovating, and expanding the Navy Yard Metro station.

9. The Auditor notes that the District's CFO, in testimony on the baseball stadium on October 28, 2004, increased the estimate for the renovation of the RFK stadium to $18.5 and included a $5.5 million contingency.

10. Mayor's estimated cost for proposed new baseball stadium and renovation of RKF stadium. However, the proposed estimate does not take into consideration additional costs the District may incur such as land acquisition based on market value, infrastructure related to WMATA, District's Department of Transportation or Water and Sewer Utility costs.

11. See, Sports, Jobs & Taxes "The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums" by Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll, Editors.

12. In addition to the rent amounts listed, Commission shall receive as additional rent each year one dollar for each full price equivalent Major League Baseball game ticket sold during such year in excess of 2.5 million full price equivalent tickets.

13. Provided for in Section 3.02 of the Baseball Agreement.

14. The $100 million represents the approximate value of the naming rights. Actual value was more than $ 100 million.

15. Telephone interview with Andrew Zimbalist October 18, 2004 regarding the book he coauthored entitled " Sports, Jobs and Taxes" issued by Brookings 1997.

16. See, Baseball and the American City: An examination of public financing and stadium construction in American professional sports, April 30, 2001.

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