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Mayor’s Office
Press release: Mayor Williams praises council baseball vote
February 8, 2006




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Approval clears the way for final stadium design, groundbreaking, construction and revitalization of Southeast Waterfront

(Washington, DC) Mayor Anthony A. Williams today praised the DC Council following tonight's 9-4 vote in favor of the stadium lease, an approval that clears the last remaining hurdle facing the ballpark plan. The deal culminates months of intense negotiations between the Williams' Administration, Major League Baseball and the Council over the terms of the lease, a process that the mayor credited with saving taxpayers money and winning key concessions from MLB.

"Today is a turning point in the District's history," Mayor Williams said, moments after he went into the Council chamber to thank Councilmembers for their vote. "In 25 years we will look back on this day as the moment when we decided to put aside cheap political stunts and misguided rabble-rousing and focus instead on the tremendous lift this project will mean to the entire city. The decision made here tonight keeps the Nationals in the District for generations to come and in time, will generate $100 million a year in new revenue for the District that we can use on critical programs."

Williams noted that the baseball plan had improved dramatically over recent months, and now included more than a dozen new provisions, each of which translates into positive benefits for District residents. Besides agreeing to pay $20 million toward the ballpark costs, Major League Baseball agreed to:

  • Pay startup costs for a new youth baseball academy for DC children.
  • Give 10,000 free tickets a year to low-income District residents.
  • Make scores of community appearances in the city each year.
  • Locate the Nationals' business office in the District.
  • Seeks out DC residents to work for the club.
  • Hold a meeting of MLB owners in the District by 2008.
  • Turn over land on the ballpark site for development profits that the District keeps.
  • Give the city two-thirds of the parking revenue on non-game days.
  • Forgo the rent penalty if the stadium is built late.
  • Issue a letter of credit to assure the District secures low-interest rates.

Earlier this week, the White House made a separate, unprecedented commitment to the project by agreeing to pay $20 million to cover the costs of upgrades to the Navy Yard Metro stop, so game crowds can easily come and go.

Under the terms of the baseball deal, no residential District taxpayer has to pay anything to cover the cost of the ballpark. Ever. The mayor noted that the entire cost will be paid for by the Nationals, who must pay $5.5 million a year in rent, federal utility tax payments, a tax on large businesses and a levy on ticket sales and concessions for people who attend games. The combined sum of those four income streams totals nearly $900 million, far more than the cost of the ballpark.

After the vote, which took place after midnight, Williams strode into the Chamber to personally thank Councilmembers for moving the city forward. The mayor credited Chairman Linda Cropp, who helped shepherd the lease plan through intense opposition from a Council minority, for the plan's approval.

"Chairman Cropp showed real leadership tonight and I credit her for that," Williams said. "This was not an easy process but she never gave up and she never wavered."

Williams also noted that Councilmember Kwame Brown had effectively lobbied to ensure that the stadium deal includes strong provisions to help local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises (LSDBE), while Councilmember Vincent Gray helped craft the strong cost control cap that was voted into law.

The mayor also thanked Councilmembers Carol Schwartz and Marion Barry, who did not agree to support the plan until they were certain that it had been sweetened to the District's advantage. Finally, the mayor praised Councilmembers Sharon Ambrose, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange and Kathy Patterson for showing steady and consistent support of the baseball plan all along - backing that was crucial to winning community support.

Mayor Williams added: "More than 2.7 million people enjoyed the Nats last season. Over time, our new ballpark will be an icon in our city's skyline and the neighborhood will duplicate the success of the MCI neighborhood, which is now lively and bustling and has become a destination for people across the region. This is a good day for the District's image and great day for the people who live and work here."

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