MLB explains why DC isn’t progressing

MLB COO Bob DuPuy wrote an opinion piece in today’s Washington Post. In it he describes the trials and tribulations that the DC government has gone through in getting the Navy Yard/Anacostia ballpark project off the ground. Since it is his piece and he is representing MLB, one can assume a certain amount of bias. Once one gets past the bias, it starts to appear like DuPuy is arguing for a new deal. Take this excerpt:

Because the Nationals will generate $250 million for the District in sales taxes and rent payments generated at the stadium (large businesses pay the rest of construction costs), baseball has input into the new stadium’s design and construction, but government officials make the decisions. D.C. planners chose the stadium’s architect. The city government, not baseball or the Nationals, decided what the Nationals’ new stadium will look like and what material will go into it, from the type of concrete used to the types of seats in the suites. Government workers selected the stadium’s construction companies, and these same governmental employees will oversee the construction work.

But now, some members of the D.C. Council have asked baseball to pay for any stadium cost overruns, even though city personnel will control the variables that cause the stadium to be built on budget or run over cost. Asking baseball to pay for overruns when D.C. government officials are in charge of the stadium’s design and construction is like MasterCard telling you to pay your credit card bill even though MasterCard gets to do all your shopping. No consumer would agree to such a provision, and neither will Major League Baseball.

Then juxtapose that with this (from earlier in the piece):

When teams are in charge of design and construction, any savings go to them and any cost overruns are borne by them. That’s what was done with new ballparks for the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants. That’s also how MCI Center was built. On the other hand, when a government agency is in charge of design and construction, the benefits and risks are covered by the city. That’s what happened in Baltimore at Camden Yards and in Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well.

It’s obvious that MLB is blaming DC for its inability to properly manage the project and its stakeholders. But it also appears as if MLB is suggesting that if the current agreement were torn up and one were drawn up where the District stepped aside, things would be moving along much more smoothly. The ballpark matter is bound for arbitration in the near future, and it is unlikely that an arbitrator will give MLB that kind of control. Stranger things have happened, however, and as the tide continues to turn against the existing project and its escalating costs, just about anything’s possible.

We can only hope that Wolff maintains his position of privately building the ballpark, thereby controlling costs and employing more efficient methods, such as design-build.

On a related note, a DC contractor group wrote to the Post as well, arguing that cost overruns at many ballparks are to be blamed on bad labor (read: union) contracts. I’m not touching that argument.

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