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February 10, 2006

Council strikes out new stadium deal

WASHINGTON

The District of Columbia Council rejected a lease for the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark this week, leaving the Washington government and Major League Baseball headed to arbitration.

As part of the deal to lure the Montreal Expos following the 2004 season, Washington agreed to spend money on construction and land acquisition for the stadium, to be built along the Anacostia River waterfront. The council voted then to authorize up to $535 million US in bonds, but the price of construction is thought to have escalated.

“If we don’t get this thing done today, we’re going into arbitration,” said Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who warned construction costs would only increase during the arbitration process.

After the council failed to approve a lease by the Dec. 31 deadline, baseball filed for mediation, a preliminary step before arbitration. The city and baseball then reached a revised agreement, which included a $20 million contribution from baseball for stadium construction. Williams also negotiated a side deal with construction companies setting a “guaranteed maximum price” for the city at $320 million.

Associated Press

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