MLB won't support RFK stadium site

MLB won't support RFK stadium site

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Baseball will not accept a new Nationals ballpark adjacent to RFK Stadium as an alternative to a site south of the Capitol, Major League Baseball's No. 2 official told District of Columbia Council members Tuesday.

Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's chief operating officer, outlined the sport's opposition to the RFK site in a letter to council Chair Linda W. Cropp as council members held a hearing on a stadium lease agreement reached last week for the site stadium along the Anacostia River waterfront.

"The deadlines negotiated in the baseball stadium agreement are important to the long-term success of this franchise," DuPuy wrote. "It does not appear to us that those deadlines could possibly be met if the district were now to propose that the site be changed."

Wrangling with the federal government over environmental effects of a stadium on the RFK site could also lead to delays of at least two years, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi warned Monday. That would spark $19 million in penalties under the proposed lease and trigger a lawsuit by MLB.

Sharon Gang, a spokeswoman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said the mayor agrees with DuPuy.

The council is scheduled to vote on the stadium lease next week. Approval is required before the city can issue bonds to pay for the project. Baseball officials are waiting for the lease to be approved before selecting a new owner for the Nationals, who were bought by the other 29 teams in 2002.

At Tuesday's hearing, lawmakers sought assurances that the deal will be good for city residents, even if they are not baseball fans.

Every member of the council committed at least a portion of the day to the lengthy hearing, which provided a last chance for formal input on the agreement. About 63 people, including former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, signed up to testify.

"A 'no' vote will potentially save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars," Nader said.

Some members of council sought assurances that the district would not borrow more the $535 million authorized last year.

MLB has committed $20 million to help cover cost overruns in return for some parking revenue from the stadium site. Some council members think the city should not have made that concession. They also want the entity that owns the team to be subject to D.C. property taxes.