MLB pulls a fast one on District of Columbia

Washington, D.C., is a city of extremes. Dwarfed by the Federal Government and monuments honoring this country’s founders, it’s easy for the millions of tourists that pass through the city to ignore the deep-seated social problems.

The District is one of the most racially segregated urban areas in the nation. It contains some of the fanciest neighborhoods, home to the wealthiest, most powerful men in America, just a short walk away from the most neglected slums in the country. While some of the most prestigious private schools in the nation call D.C. home, the public education system in the Nation’s Capital is routinely underfunded, and the public library system is in shambles.

Enter Major League Baseball. After the 2004 season, Major League Baseball decided to move the struggling Montreal Expos out of Canada and back to the United States. One of the cities vying for the honor of its own Major League Baseball team was the District of Columbia. The District, which last played host to a Major League game in 1971, was chomping at the bit for a baseball team. Little did the residents realize what landing the team would mean.

In their relocation efforts, Major League Baseball, the once and current owners of the Washington Nationals née Montreal Expos, clearly had the upper hand. With four areas competing for a team, the big wigs in charge of relocation could demand certain terms from the city that ultimately won the team. If the city failed to make good on the deal, well, three other areas are still interested in landing their very own Major League Baseball team.

For Major League Baseball, one of the key terms of the deal was a publicly-funded stadium. Never mind that Major League Baseball would be awash in cash from the sale of Washington Nationals. Remember, MLB bought the Expos for $120 million and could sell the Nationals for upwards of $450 million. Never mind that a potential buyer may be willing to split the costs of the stadium.

No, for those running the show at Major League Baseball, the relocation of the Nationals presented these executives with an opportunity to flex their political muscles by demanding that the city to which they graciously award a team foots the bill for the new stadium this team requires. When MLB picked Washington, D.C., MLB executives were put to the test. Could they manipulate the City Council under the shadow of the federal government into paying for a pricey stadium that most economists agree would not return tangible economic benefits to the city?

Boy, were those executives ever up to the task. Originally, Major League Baseball negotiated the agreement with Mayor Anthony Williams. Mayor Williams agreed to the ridiculous condition that the District of Columbia would pick up the entire cost for building a stadium priced at $535 million along with nearly $20 million in renovations to the Metro stop that would service this new stadium. Major League Baseball, the organization that stands to net over $300 million when they finally sell the Nationals, would contribute zero, zilch, nada to this plan.

Well, surprise, surprise, the City Council, um, actually agreed to this deal. Then, a few of the pro-stadium council members were voted out of office, and the stadium negotiations devolved into the soap opera that has played itself out over the last year.

On Sunday, just hours before this stadium case could have gone to arbitration, Major League Baseball signed the latest iteration of the lease. On Monday, the Mayor signed the lease, and on Tuesday, the council, which seems to be receptive to this deal, will vote on the lease. Groundbreaking on the [Insert Corporate Name] Stadium could begin right around Opening Day 2006.

So after all of that political wrangling and back-and-forth between the Council and Major League Baseball, it’s reasonable to assume that maybe the Council worked out a better deal. Maybe Major League Baseball is going to help defray the costs of the stadium construction so that the Council can focus on pooring money into its school system or sagging infrastructure. Right? Right? No, sorry, you’re wrong.

In the latest version of the deal, Major League Baseball is completely and utterly screwing over the District of Columbia. The new lease limits public spending on the project to $611 million. Major League Baseball has offered to throw in a whopping $20 million to aid the project. Meanwhile, MLB was firm on its point that the new owner would not be asked to contribute to the project. Who cares if the new ownership group is willing to help pay? Don’t even think about it, says Major League Baseball.

In another twist, Bob DuPuy, the number two guy in Major League Baseball, asked the council to agree to a provision requiring the city not to enact any legislation that violates the term of the lease. When asked to elaborate, DuPuy could not.

Notably, the lease terms do call for contributions if the project costs more than $611 million. At that point, Major League Baseball or the new Nationals owners or someone else will step in with the money. You can bet that MLB will be putting full pressure on the architects to keep the cost of the stadium under that spending cap. Heaven forbid MLB spend its millions to build its own facilities.

So in the end, Major League Baseball gets its sweet deal. They get their publicly-funded stadium from a city that certainly could use the money for nearly anything else. The owners stand to profit handsomely from the deal, and the jury is still out as to whether or not this new stadium will revitalize an area sorely in need of revitalization.

In my opinion, this saga should have been more of a scandal. While it garnered its fair share of headlines, Major League Baseball was busy dealing with the steroid scandal, and the media glossed over the stadium debate. With this sad chapter in the business of baseball fading into the past, hopefully, Major League Baseball can now get to work on finding an ownership group with pockets deep enough to rebuild the Washington Nationals into a contending baseball team by the time the new stadium opens up in 2008. For $611 million in taxpayer money, the District of Columbia certainly better get a winner and soon.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “MLB pulls a fast one on District of Columbia”


  1. 1 jackynjimy March 7, 2006 at 11:19 am

    Actually, DC spends more per student then any other state or terrirory in the US (12,046 for the 200-01 school year). Spending per student is not a perfect indicator of school performance.

    Also, one of the more pressing social issues of the city currently is the gentrification of the city as the price of real estate skyrockets. Many long term residents of the city, mostly african american, are being forced out of the city and into the surrounded suburbs of Maryland. This is upsetting the political structure of the city.

    I think the baseball owners have done a pretty good job of working through this. They had a signed deal with the city, who then broke that deal after the elections. Aren’t most ballparks taxpayer funded these days. I know the Orioles park was funded through instant lottery ticket revenues, which imo is just a tax on the poor; who most likely can’t afford to go the games.

    My main problem with the owners is that they did not sell the team earlier, and let the new owner deal with the city over the stadium. That has hurt the team’s chances of being competitive this year. Also, giving Angelos the ownership of their broadcast rights makes us mad. The Nats will only be on TV for 32 games this year. That’s absurd.

    We can’t wait for opening day on 4-11. We’ll be there watching our team, which I never thought would happen in my lifetime again.

    Nice blog, we’ll be checking it out during the course of the season.

  2. 2 huskeridiot March 7, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    i like those pictures of barry bonds

  3. 3 Rob McMillin March 23, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    First time reader AND commenter. The Nats are worth $400M? The Angels sold for less than $200M, and they were just off a World Series victory, had a recently renovated stadium, and were in a major market. The Washington Nats are just no way worth $400M.

  4. 4 Benjamin Kabak March 23, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    Rob: I’m with you on disbelief. However, that’s what the DC media keeps reporting. Major League Baseball seems to have bids secured that will guarantee them $400 million for the Nationals. I wonder if this is an East Coast/West Coast issue of an Anaheim/Los Angeles issue.


Comments are currently closed.



RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Game 74: A Sonny Saturday June 23, 2018
    The Yankees lost for only the fifth time in their last 22 games last night, and you know what’s crazy? Two of those five losses were by one run and the other three were by two runs. Even when they lose, the Yankees are in every game right to the end. Losing winnable games stinks, […] The post Game 74: A Sonny Saturday appeared first on River Avenue Blues. […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Saturday Links: Watson, Giambi, YES Network, Kay, Singleton June 23, 2018
    The Yankees and Rays will continue their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Here are some links and notes to check out in the meantime. Yankees pursued Watson over the winter According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees tried to sign left-hander Tony Watson during the offseason. He instead signed a luxury tax […] The post Saturday Links: […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Rays 2, Yankees 1: A forgettable loss if there ever was one June 23, 2018
    Ugh, I hate that the Yankees only win most games and not all games. The Yanks dropped a completely forgettable series opener to the Rays on Friday night. Giancarlo Stanton made a great catch and … that’s it? Nothing else of note happened. The final score was 2-1. Sabathia Bends, Breaks Only A Little Pretty […] The post Rays 2, Yankees 1: A forgettable loss i […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Clarke Schmidt debuts following Tommy John surgery June 23, 2018
    MLB.com posted their midseason top 100 prospects list today. Three Yankees made it: OF Estevan Florial (No. 39), LHP Justus Sheffield (No. 42), and RHP Albert Abreu (No. 65). 2B Gleyber Torres and 3B Miguel Andujar are no longer prospect eligible while RHP Chance Adams, who was No. 66 before the season, has dropped out […] The post DotF: Clarke Schmidt debut […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 73: A Trip to the Trop June 22, 2018
    The season is nearly halfway complete, and the Yankees are just now making their first trip to Tropicana Field. Very weird schedule this year. I’m not complaining. The Trop stinks. Just pointing out the schedule is weird. First of three in St. Pete tonight. As for the Yankees, my goodness they are red hot right […] The post Game 73: A Trip to the Trop appear […]
    Mike Axisa
  • 6/22 to 6/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays June 22, 2018
    For the first time this season, the Yankees will play in Tropicana Field. They’re in Tampa for three games this weekend. The Last Time They Met It seems like just yesterday that the Yankees hosted the Rays, but that’s not quite true; in fact, it was last week. The Rays visited the Bronx last weekend, […] The post 6/22 to 6/24 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays a […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Yankeemetrics: Bomber Brooms, Seattle Sweep (June 19-21) June 22, 2018
    Domingo+Dingers=Win After a quick trip to the nation’s capital, the Yankees were back at the friendly confines on Tuesday night and opened their series with an easy 7-2 win over the Mariners. Domingo German was absolutely brilliant in his eighth career start. After giving up a run (unearned) in the first inning, he retired 19(!) […] The post Yankeemetrics: B […]
    Katie Sharp
  • Mailbag: Torres, Adams, Loaisiga, Gardner, Drury, Judge, Bundy June 22, 2018
    There are ten questions in this week’s mailbag. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the mailbag email address, so send your questions there each week. Ryan asks: Any explanation for the power Torres is showing in the majors? I think I read he had only 24 homers in like 1,500 at bats in the minors. […] The post Mailbag: Torres, Adams, Loaisiga, Gardner, Drury, […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Wagner goes deep yet again in Tampa’s win June 22, 2018
    Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (3-1 win over Lehigh Valley) SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 SB — 24-for-73 (.329) with five doubles, a triple, and two homers in his last 17 games … that looks a lot more like pre-2018 Tyler Wade 1B Brandon Drury: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — second start […] The post DotF: Wagner goes deep yet again in Tampa’s win appeared […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Thursday Night Open Thread June 21, 2018
    ?Good game today, great series this week. The Yankees finished the three-game sweep of the Mariners this afternoon and they are now 28 games — 28 games! — over .500 on June 21st. Feels awesome. The 2018 Yankees are not perfect, far from it, but damn, is this team good or what? Great team and […] The post Thursday Night Open Thread appeared first on River Ave […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,703 hits
Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: