Tuesday, January 03, 2006

DuPuy's OpEd Presents the Problem...and Solution

If you haven't seen it, you should read Bob DuPuy's OpEd piece in the Washington Post today. I first heard about it listening to sports radio this morning, and figured it was little more than a complaint about the DC government being hard to deal with. No real new ground there.

And, sure enough, it is chock full of juicy quotes like:

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.

and, frustratingly:

The Senators left the District of Columbia 30 years ago for a reason -- they
found more fan and governmental support in Texas. When baseball made plans to expand in 1990 and 1995, Washington's desire to secure a team was easily outmatched by the enthusiasm and commitment of Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Wow, that's kicking the city in its collective gonads. I mean, saying that Washington didn't have the enthusiasm and commitment of Tampa Bay are almost fighting words.

But the essential point made by DuPuy about the problem is a good one. DuPuy writes that:

In baseball and in business, if you run the project, you're responsible for its
costs. 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. That's common sense, and it's fair.

That is surprisingly well put by Mr. DuPuy. I say that not because I expect little from MLB or Bob DuPuy, but because it is so persuasive of a point that MLB should have been hammering it home for the past few months.

By presenting the problem so effectively, DuPuy also presents an obvious solution: If DC wants MLB to cover the cost overruns, it should have MLB in charge of stadium design and construction. In other words, have MLB contract to deliver a stadium on time and on budget. If the stadium is over budget, MLB as the general contractor picks up the cost. That is the de facto way of having baseball cover the overages on stadium construction. In addition, it is also likely to produce a stadium designed to optimize the revenues of the Nationals.

In addition, putting MLB in charge of stadium design and construction would also correct some major flaws in the process. First, Nats fans would not be saddled with the horrendous steel and concrete stadium design. Second, it would eliminate the ridiculous $35 million that DC has slated for stadium design and "consulting." Third, it takes money out of the hands of the cronyist, corrupt DC government.

MLB should be in control of stadium design and construction. And, by consequence, responsible for any cost overruns.


At 10:23 AM, Blogger DM said...

Umm ... I agree 100% with taking the design and control out of the hands of the D.C. government -- and their requirement to use union labor as well -- but usually, in our country, you want that kind of control, you pony up the dough, like Abe Pollin and the SF Giants owner.

Why isn't DuPuy's argument simply another instance of MLB wanting to have it all ways -- have the city pay for the park AND have MLB have control over how that money gets spent?

Why not let the new owner pay for more of the stadium and thus obtain more control over its creation?

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Yuda said...

I'd rather leave the union labor part in, but I'm also a commie pinko bastard.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Basil said...

Second, it would eliminate the ridiculous $35 million that DC has slated for stadium design and "consulting."

Assuming that amount is ridiculous, it's still part of the agreement between the DCSEC and MLB and, presumably, Jerry Reinsdorf and his son.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger JammingEcono said...

So DC should just give MLB a big "I trust ya," and pony up all the money without any say in the design and construction of the facility they're paying for? I don't see the logic there. You don't give a home builder a couple hundred grand and say "just build whatever," do you?

BTW, for some reason I had neglected to link here from my blog (banksoftheanacostia.blogspot.com). That's taken care of now. Great site!

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

This responsibility for designing and constructing the stadium comes with all the responsibilities of paying for it too, right?

Call Dupuy on his bluff. He wants to be the cook, he can damn well buy the groceries, too.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger SuperNoVa said...

DM, Needham, et al.

I'm not sure why you think that control over the construction of the stadium means that you should pay for the stadium. If DC had HOK and and Turner Construction design and build the stadium, would you argue that HOK and Turner should pay for it?

I'm suggesting that the city should simply hire MLB/the Nats as the general contractor. MLB/the Nats would get a fixed amount and would be required to deliver a stadium meeting the lease requirements on April 1, 2008. If MLB/the Nats want to use better materials, etc., fine, but the amount paid by the city doesn't change. Once the stadium is built, the lease goes into affect.

I don't see what the difference is between paying some crony of Linda Cropp's construction company to hire other people to pour the concrete when MLB could do so just as easily and implicitly take responibilities for cost overruns.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Section 320 said...

What're you nuts??? The idea here is to remove MLB from the ownership position...not entrench them! Yeesh!

These are two incredibly disfunctional organizations trying to do business. And the DC Council's handling of this is a joke. But please...don't be putting MLB in charge of construction a stadium. For crying out loud.

The owner ought be be named. Period. Then let the owner join the negotiations. MLB should take the money and run.


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