District Closer to Funding Target

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

District Closer to Funding Target


Byline: Eric Fisher, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Natwar Gandhi, the District's chief financial officer, likely will certify at least two of eight offers of private financing for a new ballpark in Southeast, paving the way for the city to meet its target of funding half the hard construction costs with private money.

Rather than select a single plan, John Ross, senior adviser to Gandhi, said the final financing plan for the stadium probably will reflect a combination of offers. The 50 percent threshold, set as a goal by the D.C. Council in December, translates to about $140million in private funds.

"I think we're looking at a couple of real potentials," Ross said of the proposals. "We're probably going to mix and match and take the best components from multiple bids. Some of these don't get [to the target figure] by themselves, so we'll try to put some things together."

Gandhi must submit his report on the offers to the D.C. Council by March15. At that time, Mayor Anthony A. Williams must endorse at least one certified bid and submit it for council approval. In the meantime, executives from Gandhi's office, along with the help of Deloitte & Touche, will conduct interviews with members of all eight bids.

Ross declined to say which offers were under foremost consideration. But the group of proposals includes a master development plan for the ballpark neighborhood from Georgetown builder Herb Miller and another bid from the Cleveland-based Gates Group calling for the creation of a curbside parking program around the stadium.

While the city should meet its funding target, the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission ended fiscal 2004 with an operating loss of $2.9million, a significant drop from the $336,000 operating profit projected last summer.

The loss, reflecting generally accepted accounting principles, owes to several factors, including legal expenses stemming from the relocation pursuit of the Montreal Expos and depreciation costs of $1.87million. The commission ended fiscal year 2003 with an operating loss of $5.36million.

"We're a little off from where we thought we'd be, but we still think we're generally on target financially," said Mark Tuohey, sports commission chairman. "Much of this is only a paper loss as we'll be getting some reimbursable money back [from the city baseball fund created to pay for the stadium development]."

To buttress the commission's revenues, Tuohey and others are exploring an exterior advertising program for RFK Stadium that could generate as much as $1.5million this year. While the commission tendered all sponsorship rights within the stadium to the Washington Nationals as part of the relocation agreement, advertising revenues generated from signage on the facility's exterior and in the parking lots do not go to the club.

The commission will be receiving more than $15million in lease payments from the Nationals during their planned three-year stay at RFK Stadium. …

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