20 December 2005

This could be from your champion

A voice from the past wrote the following letter to the Washington Post:
Regarding the Dec. 18 front-page story "Beyond Washington, Most Teams Cover Stadium Overruns; District Agreed to Pay Costs Exceeding Ballpark Budget," about the District's lease deal with the Washington Nationals:

First, when comparing the District with other cities, it is important to keep in mind that stadiums in Seattle, Milwaukee and Phoenix included roofs, a complicated design feature that makes a project trickier. The District's stadium will be simpler.

The Nationals are contributing $5.5 million a year on top of $20 million upfront. Over the 30-year lease, this amounts to $165 million. Almost no other U.S. city is receiving that much rent; some teams pay just $1 million a year in rent.

Also, Camden Yards in Baltimore was 95 percent funded by that city. By comparison, the District's stadium is funded almost exclusively by large businesses, the federal government and ticket holders -- sparing average taxpayers.

Further, many ballparks, such as Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, are isolated. In the District, we've spent a little more to locate the stadium just 10 blocks from the Capitol. We're creating a new neighborhood out of parking lots and warehouses; in a few years a formerly gritty corner of the city will be lively and productive, bringing millions of dollars in sales, property and income tax revenue into the general fund each year.

Finally, most maintenance costs at the stadium are the responsibility of the Nationals, not the city.

Our hope is that the enormous economic benefits that will flow to the city and its residents in years to come will demonstrate the wisdom of this investment.

City Administrator
District of Columbia
Robert Bobb used to work for the City of Oakland. He left for the District in 2003 to head up their ballpark efforts, among other duties. He's exactly the guy Oakland needs for Wolff's project. Now I know that there are plenty of issues with Bobb's work in Oakland and his letter above has seriously flawed arguments (the large businesses are going to pass the taxes on to consumers, hello!), but I've pointed this out before and I'll say it again: these projects don't get done without a champion. That champion isn't a politician or a person from the private sector. It has to be a bureaucrat who can pull the strings and work the phones to get things done. Considering what may have to be done to get a new A's ballpark built, I wonder how it will get done in any Bay Area city without someone locally filling a similar role.