Thursday, December 16, 2004

Baseball in DC

Do I care?
Not really.
I don't care for baseball. Anywhere.
Besides my neighbor is there anyone who ACTUALLY LIVES in the District, with a real live Ward Councilmember, who wants DC to fall all over themselves for baseball? Northern Virginia, you are more than welcomed to build a stadium and have a team called the Washington Nationals. I mean Maryland has a team called the Washington Redskins, it would be fair.
What is it day 2 after Linda Cropp's decision? Oh, the nasty comments I have heard! "Who does she think she is!?" was something I heard blaring out of a radio at work. Over and over the guy said, "who does she think she is?" It was like "how dare she not bend to the will of baseball!" But you know, most of those comments I hear like that, are from these %#!!@* suburbanites.
Because baseball wasn't going to do anything for my immediate neighborhood, I really didn't care that much. If they were looking at the area around NY Ave real hard, I would be so against it. Once past the immediate borders of Shaw, stuff can be in Northern VA or Southern MD for all I know most of the time.
I will admit I haven't been keeping up with the whole baseball argument, because, well, I don't care if baseball stays in DC for more than a year or not. Besides, sports teams are as loyal as an alley cat. What's to say if DC did agree to a different financing scheme, where the city would pay for most of the stadium, that the Nationals wouldn't high tail it to NOVA or somewhere else before the darned thing is paid for?


At 12/16/2004 10:39 AM, Blogger Urban Pioneer said...

First off, I really enjoy reading your blog...I am a new to the Shaw neighborhood (my wife and I live over by the Shaw 8th and R metro stop). I read today's post and I am sorry but I must disagree as to the benefits of a stadium.

Being a taxpayer to the District it is important that we continue to grow the tax base by encouraging people to reinvest in the communities IN the district. A stadium will do just a few of the following:

Thousands of high paying jobs constructing the stadium

Hundreds (if not thousands) of seasonal jobs working at the stadium for teens and others from DC.

Thousands of jobs constructing new attractions in and around the stadium (a bit later down the road but will happen)

Thousands of jobs in retail, restaurants and bars surrponding said stadium...not that high paying but jobs nonetheless for people.

Tax revenues would include: increased sales tax revenue, payroll, real estate, NEW business, cars, and countless other fees to operate in DC.

Sorry but Linda Cropp is a fucking idiot...she, like numerous other "old school" politicians in DC do not see the big picture. This would eventually help with things that need help but would cause an insurrection if they decided to raise taxes for...for example roads and schools.

I am for the stadium...and by funding it themselves they call the shots! They need to realize that DC needs baseball more than baseball needs the district. Have you asked yourself why three other municipalities are tripping over themselves to be the back-up site?

Keep the blog going!!! I love reading about the goings on in the neighborhood...

At 12/16/2004 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see your point, Mr. Commenter, but I respectfully disagree. I do not believe that government should subsidize private business. Particularly major league baseball. And you point to me ONE city that has been improved by a baseball stadium. Find me one neighborhood that has been positively impacted by such project. Seriously.

Okay, so none of us has a crystal ball, so we cannot see what this thing will really do, but I think you vastly overestimate the potential benefits. You say:

"Thousands of high paying jobs constructing the stadium"

Thousands? and how do we know that District people would get those jobs? Additionally, there have been a LOT of developers looking to build on the Anacostia waterfront. So if it isn't a stadium, there will definitely be jobs constructing something else.

"Hundreds (if not thousands) of seasonal jobs working at the stadium for teens and others from DC."

This is pretty empty. And I still think your numbers are inflated for dramatic effect.

"Thousands of jobs constructing new attractions in and around the stadium (a bit later down the road but will happen)"

"housands of jobs in retail, restaurants and bars surrponding said stadium...not that high paying but jobs nonetheless for people."

From my observation, a lot of people that come into town to see a game at a stadium don't really hang around the area where the stadium is, and it generally isn't really a great area to live in.

"Tax revenues would include: increased sales tax revenue, payroll, real estate, NEW business, cars, and countless other fees to operate in DC."

I don't see the tax dollars rolling in. And I think it's been calculated that the stadium will NOT pay for itself. I just think it's plain obvious common sense that if major league baseball wants a new stadium, they should fund the project themselves rather than acting like they're doing us some sort of favor. They are the ones that are going to make the most money from it. It's absurd that we should ALL have to put our tax dollars toward the privilage of having our own sports team.

I applaud Linda Cropp. She has the good sense to know people like sports and want the team, and she wants to do what she can to give it to them. But not at the expense of the welfare of all of DC and its citizens. Keep in mind:

1) The fact that MLB's is sticking to the hard line that the deal cannot be changed - even after the Council rejected the deal as is - shows that they are the bad guys, not willing to be a community partner and address the city's legitimate concerns.

2) The city is not sending a bad signal or going back on its word by changing the mayor's deal. That deal was negotiated in private. The Council has every right to modify it, especially after getting reactions from the community. The city is instead sending a signal that protecting the city's fiscal future is paramount.

3) The 50% figure is misleading, because it does not include land or other costs. The $140 million figure referred to in the paper as the private share is about 1/3, not 1/2 of the $440 million stadium budget that Williams presented. 1/3 is in fact in line with other cities. Cropp's amendment thus takes a deal that was one of the most lopsided ever and makes it look more like other stadium deals.

4) MLB has already sold 10,000 tickets - it's already making money, while it's asking the city to cough up $440 million. They'll negotiate - it's in their interest to stick around.


At 12/16/2004 3:39 PM, Blogger Urban Pioneer said...

Points taken...but I want to clarify a few things that you seemed to have missed. You mention that I give one example of viable communities built around stadiums...allow me to add a few others (and these are stadiums constructed in the last 15 years:

LoDo - Denver, Colorado...once a sewer that has become the hottest area of the city. development started AFTER the Rockies announced a stadium.

The Flats - Cleveland, Ohio...ditto...once the area to buy drugs is now the area to go to in Cleveland. stadium Ybor City became an even bigger area for Tampa.

I could go on but I think I have made my point...when a FLAGSHIP is built in a neighborhood people eventually flock to it...well in the last 15 years anyway (as this is the time period that will best show that sports draw). A great example, though privately financed, is the MCI center...sorry but none of that development would have happened at the rate that it did without the MCI Center.

Yes the City Council voted against this proposal...but what cracks me up is that most of them do not (and will never) think of the future. They are a myopic and often politically backwards group who would rather the status quo than actually have development.

Many people say that they would rather use this tax money for schools and roads BUT this money is not an either or proposition. Without the EXPANSION of a tax base you will rely on those residents and businesses already here and this is not fair.

Linda Cropp, Marion Barry and others are afraid...they are afraid because the "rob the rich to pay for the poor" way of campaigning is becoming obsolete (sp?) and they realize that if they do not stop progress they will soon be speaking to a rapidly changing demographic in this city. I do applaud her moxie and obvious move to make a political name for herself, but this will blow up.

And for the record, there is no owner of this team...hence why this is an issue. MLB does not want to be on the hook to finance this stadium as it is usually a team owner who deals with this type of isse.

Do me a favor, when you go to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore take a look around and realize that this could be SW area that needs the jobs and the attraction points.

At 12/16/2004 5:26 PM, Blogger John Whiteside said...

If you look at what's happened in other cities (as opposed to cherry-picking examples that bolster your point) you'll see that the record for baseball stadiums is mixed. Sometimes they produce good development around them, and sometimes they don't. You also need to consider whether development was going to happen anyway.

For example, the MCI Center turned out well for several reasons. First, it's not just a sports stadium - it has many uses and brings people in all the time. Second, it's in an area that was poised for a comeback already, near office workers and residential areas, and basically the center just helped what was already starting there. Finally, Abe Pollin paid for it.

The financing deal for the stadium is just bad news. First of all, it leaves DC assuming most of the risk if the stadium isn't a success (a big difference from, say, the new convention center, which was designed so that while it was publicly financed, it could never post a risk to the city's general fund). Note that it's also bad compared to deals other cities have come up with - cities are far less willing to build stadiums for private enterprises, for a good reason. It's basically a big giveaway to wealthy team owners; they can sell the team for more money because the new owner won't have to build a stadium (or pay for it).

Projections being off for attendance is a real possibility; the general tend in baseball attendance is down. It's not the most thriving sport in America.

As for the dreams of great jobs - there will be a lot of menial fast food type jobs. The stadium will be empty a lot of time. When it's not, it won't exactly be a big plus; I was a neighbor of Fenway Park in Boston for years, and for the immediate neighborhood, it was basically a blight. Unless you like fistfights in the streets, cheesy bars, and people pissing on your doorstep.

So, the stadium doesn't bring much expansion of the tax base. It does bring some economic activity (and a whole bunch of infrastructure costs). And in a unique-to-DC feature, one of the revenue sources a stadium normally brings won't be there. In any other place, when all those ball players collect their mega-checks for playing that night, the local government collects taxes. Play at Fenway, play Massachusetts non-resident income tax on it. Play in Baltimore, pay Maryland. But of course DC is not allowed to collect those taxes, so that's lost too.

It's a crappy deal. Just try to find an actual survey of ballparks that shows they are the great boon you think they will be. You can't because they aren't.

Meanwhile, near the site, the Waterfront area revitalization continues, with new office and commercial space. The ball park site could be put to much more economically valuable use as office/retail space with new housing - perhaps some that people in DC could actually afford.

And before you get all upset at the city council, ask yourself why the mayor went and negotiated a deal which was basically handing over the goods to MLB, promised it would pass, and clearly hadn't sold it yet to the council that had to actually vote on it. Clearly he was counting on public pressure getting them in line; thus the premature announcement and hoopla. Basically, make it a reality, and nobody will have the guts to point out that the mayor negotiated incompetently and got a crappy deal.

I congratulate Ms. Cropp on pointing out that the emporer has no clothes. If MLB doesn't come to DC, it will be because of the chaos caused by the mayor's stupid approach to the matter. DC is an attractive market, and they can make a ton of money with a team there even having to pay their own bills. Note that northern Virginia didn't want baseball when they had to pay for it themselves - they want it across the river so DC can pick up the tab.

At 12/17/2004 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The result of development around new stadiums has been mixed because: 1)if there was development around the stadium, i.e., a "success" story, it was because of development that would have happened anyway and 2) if there was no development it was because the local economy just could not support a stadium or the supposed new "business" that would crop up around it. The Flats in Cleveland was a success story for about 2 minutes. Now the Flats is non-existent because the local economy simply could not support all the bars and restaurants developers put in. Most people live in the suburbs in Cleveland and only come down for the game. Sure there is some activity near the stadiums- on game day, but it is minimal. However, with the loss of many manufacturing jobs, Cleveland is now the poorest large city in the U.S. (see recent Washington Post for this). And guess what? They have not 1, not 2, but 3 new stadiums that have failed to spur economic development and now the poor taxpayers are stuck with the bill. And anyone who has been to Tampa knows that Ybor City is pretty much not so close to the stadiums and you would not want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time around there still.
DC is a very unique place in the U.S. We have the strongest economy right now, we have many jobs to fill, and we have a real housing shortage. Tens of thousands of people move here every year. Simple economics drives development here: supply (low) and demand (high). And in another unique DC instance, most of the land is owned by the federal government and, unless there is oil, gas, or trees on it, is not saleable or developable. So this drives the economy more. Most of the undeveloped portions of the city will be developed regardless of whether or not there is a stadium.
In addition, anyone who is a baseball fan should not be for this team to move but to just be eliminated. The other major sports need to adopt the NFL model to survive: salary caps, anonymous players, short seasons, and every game counts. Parity makes the game interesting and baseball has none right now. It would be nice to see some serious contraction in baseball and the redistribution of talent to give parity to the game. Don't forget too: baseball needs DC. Where are they going to go? Norfolk? Good luck. Who is going to buy tickets, all the Navy guys getting shipped to Iraq? Las Vegas? I guess all the hotel workers, card dealers, and strippers have lots of extra money to spend on baseball tickets. Plus, didn't baseball ban its most prolific hitter because he gambled? Now you are going to put a stadium in Vegas with what, slot machines and a sports book in the place? DC is the largest, richest market without a team. The only reason they waited so long was because they did not know how to appease Peter Angelos but finally figured it out. I am not saying baseball won't go away, because I think they will try to work something out, but I don't think many of the indifferent fans in DC who probably came from somewhere else anyway and root for someone else, care.


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