Jack Evans Report: It Was a Smart Call to Return Baseball to Washington, D.C.
I usually write about our baseball team around opening day every year, but I think the timing of opening day caused the budget to take precedence for me this year. April 1 was opening day for the Washington Nationals, and it was a great day to head outside and watch the Nationals win their opener over the Marlins.
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, there were obviously high expectations after our exciting playoff appearance last year, but it’s tough for any team to be successful with so many injuries. Still, I’ll take second in the division versus last place, for now, and I will hope we put some more wins together as the season progresses.
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 other sources of revenue to pay off the loan: 1) a 1-percent increase in the commercial utility tax; 2) a tax on businesses with gross receipts of more than $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 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 further along than the baseball stadium area.
So, as we settle into another baseball season, if you are a baseball fan, make sure to run over to a game after work or on a sunny weekend. Play ball! ★