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Though D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams has yet to win approval for his plan to build a publicly financed baseball park along the Anacostia River, the scramble to win stadium-related legal work has already begun. Four Washington-area offices have received requests for proposals from D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi to serve as bond counsel for the half-billion-dollar debt-issue Williams has proposed to finance the new stadium. In recent days, the public finance arms of Holland & Knight; Hunton & Williams; Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll; and Squire, Sanders & Dempsey have been tapped for bids on the project, which could generate fees in the low- to mid-six figures, according to several public finance lawyers with knowledge of the project. The requests for proposals come as the fate of the ballpark, which would house the Major League Baseball team currently known as the Montreal Expos, remains up in the air. As a condition of the city being awarded the team, Williams pledged to Major League Baseball officials that the District would build a new ballpark along the Anacostia on South Capitol Street, S.E. The Expos would play in a refurbished Robert F. Kennedy Stadium until the new ballpark is ready. Williams’ plan must be approved by the D.C. Council. Last week, Chairwoman Linda Cropp postponed a vote on the package, saying she wanted to pursue other financing schemes. Williams’ proposal calls for the sale of $500 million in municipal bonds backed by a general revenues tax on medium and large businesses, lease payments from the group that will ultimately own the Expos, and a tax on concessions sold in the ballpark. To that end, the mayor’s office is soliciting bids for municipal bond counsel, advisers who specialize in helping local governments structure debt-issues in accordance with local statutes and Internal Revenue Service tax-exemption rules. According to Marvin Morris, an attorney in Gandhi’s office, the four firms were selected because they currently hold contracts with the city for bond and finance work. (Hawkins Delafield & Wood is currently under contract as the city’s disclosure counsel.) A fifth firm, Nixon Peabody, which served as the city’s bond counsel for the new $850 million Washington Convention Center, is hoping to be contacted about stadium-related work, says D.C. managing partner Justine Wilcox. All five firms have strong public finance and real estate practices � as well as the kind of political connections that are considered vital in securing city business. For example, Holland & Knight public finance partner Douglas Patton was D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development during Williams’ first term. Pauline Schneider, Hunton & Williams’ top D.C. bond specialist, has close ties to both Williams and former Mayor Marion Barry Jr. Schneider served as D.C.’s top lobbyist to Congress from 1983 to 1985 under Barry and was on Williams’ transition team in 1998. Squire, Sanders’ Roger Clark joined that firm after working as a top aide in the mayor’s office and as a lawyer in the D.C. CFO’s office. And in September, Nixon Peabody plucked ElChino Martin from his post as chief of staff in the Office of Planning and Economic Development. The firms have made political contributions as well. According to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, Holland & Knight’s 23-attorney “D.C. Practice” group, which handles mainly local government and real estate work, has given $21,010 over the past five years to city candidates. In its own name, the firm itself has donated $11,808 over the same period. The other firms competing for the stadium work have given substantially less. Larry Bodine, a Glen Ellyn, Ill., legal consultant, says existing relationships are critical in landing municipal bond work. “When all things are equal, the law firm with the relationship is going to get the work. The key thing is you’ve got to know the person making the decisions,” Bodine says. “If there are 10 firms and they’re equally qualified, how does an agency choose? They go with someone they know.” Many of the firms involved in recent capital projects such as the Washington Convention Center and the MCI Center are reappearing on the proposed stadium project. Hunton & Williams represented the investment houses that underwrote the city’s bonds for both the Convention Center and the MCI Center. And Squire, Sanders served as counsel for the Washington Convention Center Authority in litigation with a group of activists who challenged the legality of the tax used to fund that project’s construction. Additionally, Claude Bailey, the general counsel who oversaw the Convention Center’s construction, has announced he’s leaving the Washington Convention Center Authority for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. The commission is expected to handle the contracts for the short-term renovation of RFK Stadium and the construction of a new ballpark. Beyond bonds and finance, the stadium’s construction will require attorneys with a host of other specialties. “This is going to be a major site, and there’s going to be all sorts of legal issues,” says Mark Tuohey, chair of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and a partner at Vinson & Elkins. Among the thorniest problems the city will face is acquiring property for the proposed ballpark site off South Capitol Street, which is held by private individuals. “There will be fleets of lawyers involved in condemning the land,” predicts Richard Newman, a partner at D.C.’s Arent Fox. Nor are environmental lawyers likely to be left out, says Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman partner Kenneth Lore. Lore represents Forest City Enterprises, a Cleveland developer that is building a mix of apartments, offices, and stores on a 42-acre site adjoining the proposed ballpark site and the new Department of Transportation building on M Street, S.E. He says that Forest City discovered contamination on its new land, and that it’s not unlikely the ballpark site will have similar environmental concerns, particularly since it abuts land that was formerly a Navy munitions facility. If and when the ballpark advances to the design phase, District officials will likely seek counsel in order to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Eight years ago, a federal judge froze construction of the MCI Center after finding that the arena’s plan didn’t provide enough seating for fans in wheelchairs. But the tide of legal work is contingent, of course, on Williams’ success in steering the plan through the D.C. Council and by Chairwoman Cropp. Last week, Cropp shocked the mayor by proposing an alternative to his plan. Cropp’s plan would raise as much as $350 million from a private group seeking to profit from a loophole in the federal tax code. That group, BW Realty, is led by D.C. attorney Richard Gross. Gross represented developer T. Conrad Monts in the late 1990s in a deal with the city to refurbish the Wilson Building � the seat of city government. That agreement ended with both sides suing each other and the city eventually paying Monts nearly $16 million to extricate itself. BW Realty is being represented before the council by former D.C. Corporation Counsel Frederick Cooke, who has also served as the personal attorney for Barry. Barry, who has yet to take office as a newly elected councilman, has been a vocal opponent of Williams’ stadium plan. Cooke, a partner at Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, did not return calls for comment. Cropp retreated from steadfast opposition to the mayor’s plan late last week, saying she would support it if the city remained open to using money from private investors � such as BW Realty � to help finance the stadium. But if the mayor’s extended brawl with the D.C. Council ends with Major League Baseball withdrawing from the District, a whole new scramble could ensue across the Potomac, where Northern Virginia’s hopes of getting the Expos could be rekindled. “We’re available,” says Peter Bynoe, counsel for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority and a partner at Piper Rudnick in Chicago. “Everybody’s watching to see what happens.”

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