It’s springtime, and one’s idle thoughts turn to baseball. March 31 is opening day for the Washington Nationals. At 1:05pm, the Nats take on the Atlanta Braves in the season opener at Nationals Park.
Since the Nationals started playing baseball in RFK stadium in April 2005, I have attended every opening game. Although I had never attended an opening game for any team before and had been to very few baseball games, I have come to look forward to baseball season. This year, the Nationals should be better. Having finished in last place every season since 2005, we are all hoping for some improvement. Certainly, the team has acquired a lot of talent during the offseason. The question is how improved our pitching rotation is.
Little is heard anymore about the decision to bring a baseball team to Washington and to build a new stadium. The stadium has worked out better than anticipated. The District borrowed $584 million to build the stadium and identified other sources of revenue to pay off the loan: 1.) a 1% increase in the commercial utility tax; 2.) a tax on businesses with gross receipts of over $5 million; and 3.) revenue generated from the stadium itself, including rent and sales tax on concessions, tickets and apparel.
Together, these taxes raised $14 million more than is necessary to pay the debt service. All contingency funds have been fully funded and the excess revenue will be used to pay off the bonds early. This stadium financing method is used as a model by other jurisdictions.
Development around the stadium has occurred but has been slowed by the recession. Recently, with credit markets becoming more accessible, development is proceeding. I stated at the time that it would take ten years to build out the area. Keep in mind that it took that long to develop the area around the Verizon Center, a part of town which was much more commercially developed than the baseball stadium area.
So as we look forward to another season, if you are a baseball fan, make sure to run over to a game after work or on a sunny weekend. Play ball.