WASHINGTON – Efforts to bring baseball back to the nation's capital got back on track Tuesday as lawmakers approved two amendments, then voted 7-6 to back the entire deal.
On a voice vote, the District of Columbia Council (search) passed an amendment, which calls for the city and Major League Baseball (search) to share the cost for insurance which would limit the city's liability on cost overruns or completion delays. It also waives compensatory damages for the first year if the stadium is finished late. Instead, the Washington Nationals (search) would not have to pay rent for RFK Stadium (search) if the new ballpark is not ready for the 2008 season.
The second amendment, approved 10-3, deletes the sunset provision that cancels the deal if there is no private financing.
Both amendments were introduced by Council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp (search), following a meeting Monday night with Mayor Anthony A. Williams (search). In a memo to the council, Cropp writes that the city's chief financial officer has preliminarily determined that a $100 million financing proposal could work. The amendment also requires the CFO to speed the process of certifying the private options by March 15.
Cropp said the changes to the baseball plan could save the city more than $193 million, compared to the deal the council first received. But not everyone was sold.
"No one has answered why Major League Baseball can't pay" for a stadium, said Councilman Adrian Fenty, who said it remained a "horrible deal."
"That's what I keep hearing from residents: Why can't these owners pay their fair share?" Fenty said.
But Councilman Jack Evans, who backed baseball from the start, said it was time to move forward.
"It's fun being the Lone Ranger. It's fun always being the guy against. But at this point in time, it's time we come together and get behind this," Evans said.
The compromise came after Cropp and Williams talked to Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, who negotiated by telephone from New York.