October 28th, 2004

D.C. Baseball Update

D.C. taxpayers got some interesting news this morning, as the city’s Chief Financial Officer sent a letter to the Chairman of the D.C. City Council saying that the stadium is going to cost $91 million more than the original estimate:

In an eight-page letter to D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), Natwar M. Gandhi said the total cost of the stadium package could reach $486.2 million, not the $395 million stated in the agreement between the District and Major League Baseball.

The additional costs are in three areas: $50 million for improvements to roads, sewers and Metro; $11 million more than estimated to renovate RFK; and $30 million more than estimated for contingency funds for likely cost overruns.

“As a result of the increase in project costs, more money will have to be borrowed and debt service will increase,” Gandhi wrote.

Gandhi’s figure does not include an additional $40 million in financing costs, which would put his estimate for the total package at about $530 million. City officials have estimated the total at $440 million.

Ouch. And if the debt service increases, the amount of revenue recovered from all of the taxes needed to support the project needs to increase — something that makes it all the more likely that revenue raised won’t be enough to service the payments on the bonds that will pay for construction.

And when the shortfall hits, it will fall on the back of District taxpayers, who will have to make up the difference in either: 1) higher taxes or 2) reduced city services. Expect to see this point made repeatedly at this morning’s City Council hearing on the stadium. Somebody is probably going to wave this study by the CATO Institute around as well. It makes for interesting reading.

Capitol Punishment just shrugs and says it’s time for the city to take its fiscal medicine. As for me, I’m just glad as a Virignia resident, any taxes I pay on this project are going to be voluntary.

And in the front office, Bob Watson, Major League Baseball’s first choice to take over as GM of the Expos on an interim basis here in Washington, has told his current employers that he isn’t interested:

“I’m not coming that way,” Watson said, “and that is final.”

Watson, who now serves as baseball’s director of on-field operations, declined to go into detail about his thought process — “It’s my decision,” he said — but acknowledged that the new owner’s right to bring in an entirely different management structure was a factor.

“I understand why you can’t [make a commitment for] any longer,” Watson said. “You don’t have an owner. I understand that. That person should make the decisions.”

Why would Watson be their first choice? M-O-N-E-Y of course.

Because Watson is a current employee of Major League Baseball, he’s already on the payroll, and sliding him into D.C. to keep the seat warm for whoever the new ownership group wants to hire probably woudn’t have cost much more money. But having to bring somebody new on board from the outside means ponying up some cash — cash that has to come out of the pockets of the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball.

In better news, former Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle GM Pat Gillick is interested in the job — and that’s whether or not there’s a guarantee of employment from new ownership. I’m sure everyone knows Gillick’s track record, where he’s built winners in all three of those cities before leaving each job on his own terms. For more on next season’s lineup, check out Distinguished Senators.

Finally, Senators and Sabermetrics is connecting the dots, and thinks that the name Grays is a lock for the new team. I hope he’s right.

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October 26th, 2004

D.C. Baseball Update

With D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams in the Far East, he sent one of his minions to confront an angry crowd in Captain Off Wing’s old neighborhood that wasn’t happy about the stadium plan:

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Doris Barnes, 60, who lives in the neighborhood. “We need schools, jobs and homes. We don’t need a baseball stadium.”

A spokesman for the Southwest Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which co-sponsored the meeting, said the group voted 5 to 1 after the meeting to oppose the stadium proposal.

The next big event for stadium opponents: Thursday’s hearing before the D.C. Council’s economic development and finance and revenue committees — reported to be a 10-hour ordeal. From the looks of it, one possible outcome is an increase in the gross reciepts tax on large businesses that’s being used to finance the stadium.

Meanwhile, preparations for the arrival of the Expos continue apace. It looks like Bob Watson, the man who was responsible for the revival of the Yankees in the mid-1990s, is set to become General Manager. Another D.C. blogger reminds everyone that it’s time to choose a name for the team, and it ought to be the Senators.

And from Monday’s Washington Times, there’s word that the city is doing all it can to keep D.C. United at RFK — including making some accomodations when it comes to premium seating for their best supporters.

My guess: while sharing RFK with a baseball team might not be ideal for D.C. United and its supporters, there are few, if any, more palatable alternatives.

Thanks, as always, to William Yurasko and Distinguished Senators.

3 Responses to “D.C. Baseball Update”

  1. dcthrowback says:

    If I hear one more citizen parrot the line that we need more schools, hospitals and jobs (where nowadays, two of three of those are creations of the private sector), I am going to puke.

    If one keeps repeating the same meme over and over again, people will believe it to be true, even if it is not.

  2. Jes Golbez says:

    Washington Grays would be a much better name than the Senators or Generals, IMO.

  3. Jim McCarthy says:

    Those complaints really are maddening. It’s a safe bet that not one person at that community meeting will have to give so much as a nickel to the stadium financing. Quite the contrary — DC has one of the highest budgets per capita in the country financing a welfare state smorgasbord. As someone who’s been forced for an adult lifetime to pitch money into the DC government sinkhole, I have two words for the handout crowd: Go Nats!

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