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Date: Feature Week of October 17, 2004
Topic: Black Press Business/Economic
Author: William Reed
Article ID: article_ema101704


I don't think we need a baseball stadium in D.C.  I like baseball, play it myself, but it is not a priority.  The owners of many of these teams are sticking these cities up for $3 or 4 million and these cities are so anxious to have a baseball team that they are paying the price. – Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Oct. 2004

 The District of Columbia’s former mayor, Marion Barry is back.  This time, he’s saving the city’s majority-black population from another financial bilking.

 Having assured himself a seat on the D.C. City Council for the third time, Marion Barry is in the forefront of an urban opposition that has national implications for Black Americans and their level of participation and opportunity in corporate sports.  Many in D.C. taxpayers fear that they will have to foot the bill to build a Major League Baseball stadium in the nation’s capital.  "I am working as hard as I can to kill this thing," Barry says of current Mayor Anthony A. Williams' plan to publicly finance a $435 million ballpark.  Williams’ stadium-financing plan helped persuade baseball officials to relocate the Montreal Expos to D.C., and MLB officials have a tightly worded contract that voids the Expos' relocation if the City Council does not approve the waterfront ballpark location and a bond issue by Dec. 31.  The agreement calls for DC’s ballpark to have 66 luxury suites containing 1,080 seats, 2,000 clubs seats, a 500-seat club restaurant and a 15,000-square foot picnic area.  If the city voids the contract, the Expos could be moved to another city.  But, Barry is confident the city can renegotiate the deal, pointing out “I’m only opposed to tax money being spent to build this stadium."

 Mayor Williams has proposed paying for up to $500 million in stadium bonds with a combination of a 10 percent sales tax on baseball tickets and stadium concessions, an annual $5.5 million rent payment from the team owners and a gross-receipts tax levied on city businesses with gross receipts over $3 million-a-year.  Williams gets his marching orders from a group called the Washington Baseball Club.  He says that the stadium will not take "one dime" from city residents and that the team and ballpark will bring money into the District.  On the other hand, Barry doesn’t like the location “because the waterfront property is too valuable to squander on a ballpark”; and thinks the warehouse, low-income housing area would be better served by building moderately priced and affordable housing.

 Barry’s position is backed up by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI); which says “claims that a baseball stadium would bring significant economic benefits to D.C. are not backed up by economic research.”  Instead, economic studies show urban communities across America have been taken by builders and owners of new stadiums in their cities; and, the baseball stadiums do little to create jobs and public subsidies for stadium construction and do not "pay for themselves" by generating increased tax revenues.  Basically, baseball stadiums don’t boost regional employment or income.  The DCFPI finds the investment unjustified: Only about one-third of jobs generated by a stadium would go to DC residents, which means the District would spend $900,000 for each job filled by a resident.  Yet many of the jobs would be part-time with low pay and limited benefits, such as jobs in concessions.  A study of 25 stadiums built between 1978 and 1992 found that none generated a net increase in tax revenue for the host city.

 Mayor Williams position is backed up by the Washington Baseball Club, a powerful group that consists of eleven Washington, D.C.-area based community and business leaders.  In league with many baseball club owners, these financiers are in control of billions in capital, construction and real estate dollars.  Frank Raines, Chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae, is the only African American among the General Partners.  Raines, a former Clinton Administration Cabinet member, makes over $7 million-a-year and wields a heavy hand on Mayor Williams’, and City Council, actions in all baseball matters.  There are three Limited Partners, all black; they are former Washington Redskin back Darrell Green, former President of Walt Disney Television & Telecommunications Dennis Hightower and Vernon Jordan, a Senior Managing Director of Lazard Freres & Co. LLC.

 Ideally, Barry’s supporters and Williams’ Washington Baseball Club will make a deal.  It would be best if the Washington Baseball Club poised to be the franchise’s owners, institutes specific commitments toward business contracting and employment for minorities and District-based black firms with the team and facility.


© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com


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