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Fernando Murias, Greater Washington Board of Trade
Testimony at Committee on Finance and Revenue public hearing on “Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003,” Bill 15-270
June 12, 2003




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Good afternoon Chairman Evans, committee members and staff. My name is Fernando Murias. I am the Managing Partner, Greater Washington Area for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and I am the Chair of the Greater Washington Board of Trade's Sports Task Force. The Greater Washington Board of Trade is the largest regional network of business and non-profit leaders, representing over 1,350 members. The Board of Trade is one hundred fourteen years old. Its aim is to grow business and build community. The Sports Task Force is only a few months old and its purpose is to accomplish that larger aim by helping to bring major sports events to our region, to support our existing professional and college teams and to promote youth sports.

I would like to thank you for giving us this occasion to speak with you today about the Board of Trade's support for the region's quest to attract a Major League Baseball franchise and our support for a financing package that can make that a reality. Before I offer the substance of our testimony, I would like to acknowledge your role, Mr. Chairman, in supporting baseball in DC over the last five years, and applaud your diligent fiscal, oversight on this and other issues facing the District of Columbia.

In supporting the District's efforts to make baseball a reality in this city, I want to make clear that we similarly support the financing necessary to bring a team to Northern Virginia. In both cases, the business community that we represent is willing to pay for modest public financing that would support ballpark construction.

We are not willing to pay any price for baseball, but we are willing and think the District of Columbia and the Virginia jurisdictions should be willing to pay a reasonable price as part of a sound business deal with Major League Baseball.

I know that other witnesses today have told you about the economic benefits that will accrue from having major league baseball in Washington. I won't repeat their statistics. We believe that sound research does show that a major league baseball club would create a significant number of jobs and generate significant tax revenues.

Could other public investments produce the same amount of jobs or taxes or more? Possibly. Do we need a baseball team to be a "major league" urban area? No. Washington and the surrounding region already constitute a world-class urban area, not only because we are the seat of the world's most important government, but because we have a powerful economy and wonderful amenities.

Baseball's potential impact here is about more than just business numbers. It's about some tangibles and some intangibles that few other development investments would bring. A Major League baseball club would generate civic spirit and pride among the region's residents. Baseball appeals to a widely diverse regional audience. It would be a nighttime and weekend draw for residents and tourists during some prime Washington tourist periods in which other sports are in their off-seasons. Baseball is an outdoor sport and most of our existing franchises are played indoors. Baseball games often prompt business and convention visitors to stay an extra night. Baseball would help us implant the idea that Washington is a fun place in which to visit or live.

We know something about the importance of this region's and the city's image. The Board of Trade has an affiliate, the Greater Washington Initiative, that markets this region, nationally and internationally, as a place for businesses to locate-and expand. With all our great demographics, our economic numbers, our income level, first-in-the-nation educational attainment of our workforce, and great outdoor spaces and recreational opportunities, the region still lags in outsiders' perceptions as a place in which to have a good time.

Ballparks themselves have become landmarks and architectural amenities. Done right, they can attract significant investment to their surrounding neighborhoods.

I am impressed with the conservative assumptions that were made in putting this financing package together. The city has used conservative estimates of average attendance, for example, in computing the projected tax revenues that would be dedicated to the financing. And if the tax on visiting players' revenues were not to come about, the financing still works. The city has responded to the concerns of small businesses about the gross receipts fee and come up with what we feel is a fair proposal.

Mr. Chairman, obviously there are many options available in putting together the necessary financing. We would certainly be willing to participate in looking at alternatives. But we may not have much time before the jurisdictions on both sides of the Potomac need to wrap up the exploratory phase of this effort; the package submitted by the Mayor is a good one and we should not go back to square one.

A team in the Washington DC metropolitan region would encourage new businesses, new sources of revenue, opportunity for more jobs, and the kind of spirit and pride we began to see in our bid for the 2012 Olympics.

As you well know, one thing a team needs to come to a new city (and often to stay in a host city) is a place to play ball. Ball parks have gone from gigantic stadiums in remote industrial locations to architecturally sensitive structures in the center of the city in places like San Francisco and Denver, Baltimore and St. Louis.

Stadiums cost money, as you are learning. Financing of sports facilities is debated wherever a team needs to serve more fans or to be located near mass transit or wherever a new team might go. Most recently, the Baltimore Ravens were able to get a football stadium next to Camden Yards. It is our understanding that no financing -proposal will come forward that would call on the District to commit funds that are now dedicated to city services, schools or health and welfare. We urge this committee to conduct a balanced review of the options generated by the Sports & Entertainment Commission and to communicate those options to the public through hearings, roundtables and community meetings.

We further urge the Council and the city's leaders to keep an open mind while they receive the various options that might be available to the District in pursuing a Major League Baseball franchise.

We would like to commend the Sports & Entertainment Commission for its entire site evaluation process and for seeking community input into that process through public meetings. At the same time, we applaud the work of the DC Office of Planning and the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development on this important initiative. We encourage this committee to gather as much information as possible about the economics of stadium siting and to learn as much as it can about the decisions made by other cities in recent years regarding the location of stadiums and the impact of site selection on the viability of the franchise.

I want to convey to you the Board of Trade's willingness to assist this committee and the Council and Mayor Williams in gathering information that will help it in evaluating future proposals. Bringing Major League Baseball to our region is one of our high priorities for 2003.

Thank you again for opportunity to speak with you about this issue. I would be happy to try to answer any questions my testimony might have raised.

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