D.C. Council rejects lease for Nationals' new stadium

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The District of Columbia Council rejected a lease for the Washington Nationals' new ballpark on Tuesday, leaving the Washington government and Major League Baseball headed to arbitration.

The council voted 8-5 against approving the lease.

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 in bonds, but the price of construction is thought to have escalated.

"The majority of the council took a shortsighted view in denying this lease," Mayor Anthony A. Williams said. "We're not saving money for the district, we're not saving money for the project, we're not even really bringing economic benefit to our citizens."

The mayor declined to say whether he would seek a new agreement with baseball.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, was angered by the decision.

"Today's vote is a serious setback to all those in the Washington community who sought the return of a team to the nation's capital," he said in a statement.

"I regret very much that D.C. officials have failed to honor the agreement they made when they successfully bid for the Expos to move to Washington," DuPuy added. "Baseball has no choice but to pursue arbitration so the terms of our original agreement can be honored and to begin to explore whatever options are available to us."

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