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On Jan. 3, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by Bob DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball (MLB). In it, DuPuy chastises D.C. pols for “trying to walk away from the agreement that brought the [Nationals] here.” Because the situation has gotten so messy and confusing, the Washington City Paper offers some notes so that readers may better understand the complicated machinations behind the stadium deal.
Let’s talk about those options. Of these, Las Vegas and Northern Virginia seemed to offer the District the most competition. NoVa was eliminated when Arlington County refused to cater to MLB’s every whim. Las Vegas was a tough sell because not only would some chump there have to build a new stadium, but he’d also have to find a place for the Watersuckers—or whatever—to play for the umpteen years it would take for construction. As for the others, did anyone really believe that Norfolk, Va., Monterrey, Mexico, or Portland, Ore., were going to be able to support a team?
Regarding enthusiasm and commitment, Bob, here are some 2005 attendance figures:
Arizona Diamondbacks: 2,059,331 (Per-game average: 25,423)
Florida Marlins: 1,823,388 (22,792)
Colorado Rockies: 1,915,586 (23,944)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 1,124,189 (14,052)
Washington Nationals: 2,692,123 (33,651)
Yeah, like that was going to happen. Imagine the scale of the political war that would erupt over the construction a 45,000-seat stadium blocks from the National Mall.
Yes, Bob—technically, MLB won’t make anything from “development matters.” Oh, wait—the District caved on that: Under the latest lease terms, MLB gets one-third of the parking revenues at the stadium on days when baseball games aren’t even played! Guess you won’t have to be content with just the $280 million–plus profit you’ll make by selling a team that plays in a stadium it didn’t have to build.
And now, for you simple folks, an easy-to-swallow metaphor. Here’s another one: D.C. offered to put the stadium on its MasterCard, and now MLB won’t leave a tip. Classy.
State-of-the-art glass-and-steel stadium—$376.6 million. Land acquisition—$97.7 million. Infrastructure improvements—$51.5 million. Clunky analogies—priceless.
Major League Baseball, for all its many pluses, is not an easy organization with which to do business. A recent example: Last month, the Washington Post reported that MLB “ordered bidders for the Washington Nationals not to promise D.C. government leaders money for a new stadium because their involvement could disrupt negotiations, angering some city officials who believe the bidders could help solve their cost concerns.” Clearly, these are the actions of an organization interested in resolving a tough situation.
Politicians quarrelling? In Washington?
Of course, commercial development is the only justification D.C. has for shelling out hundreds of millions in public money.
On the subject of blown deadlines: It’s been over a year since MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced that he’d announce a buyer, and the league has since blown reported deadlines at the end of 2004, after a deal was worked out with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, in midsummer 2005, after Labor Day, after the end of the World Series, and during the November owners’ meetings. In that time, with the Nats’ price tag somehow going ever upward, the team has been left to languish in the hands of a general manager, Jim Bowden, who seems to be doing his best to drive fans away.
So what’s the big deal, Bob? If you’re so sure that there will be no cost overruns, then what’s the problem with MLB agreeing to pay for them?
Since being awarded the team, the District has agreed to find a way to pay for a new stadium, the infrastructure around the facility, and pretty much everything else associated with the project. How far has baseball “traveled” in that same period? The 600-some miles from Montreal, plus about $20 million for construction costs ($20 million that MLB stands to make back through the non-game-day parking fees). Reports indicate that you might be willing to cover up to 20 percent of the theoretical cost overruns, Bob—which, if we believe you, might still be nothing.CP