D.C. Home Run: the Nationals and Their Stadium Are Paying Off

Nats' Ryan Zimmerman at bat at home opener, April 12. | Robert Devaney

It’s spring time and one’s fancy turns to baseball. April 12 was the home opener for the Washington Nationals. At 1:05pm, the Nats took on the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park.

Since the Nats started playing baseball at 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 than in years past. Having finished toward the bottom of the division every season since 2005, I think we are poised to build on the improvements we saw last year.

Little is heard these days 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 several sources of revenue to pay off the loan: 1) a 1-percent increase in the commercial utility tax, largely paid by the federal government; 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 have raised millions of dollars more than necessary to pay the annual debt service obligations. All contingency funds have been fully funded, and I support using the excess revenue to pay off the bonds early. Our 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 the credit markets becoming available, development is proceeding. I stated at the time that it would take 10 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 further along 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.

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