April 8, 2008

Nationals Park Half Full for New Stadium's SECOND GAME

I never imagined it would be THIS bad. The Lerners must be thankful they only paid a tiny percentage of the bill for the new stadium. According to the official box score, Nationals Park was 49.7% sold for the second game in its history. What should have been one of the biggest tickets in the history of the District instead barely caused a blip. Assuming not everyone showed up for the game, the Capitals' first round playoff game Friday will draw more people, and the Verizon Center only holds 18,277 for hockey.

ESPN has more: "[A Nats error drew] resounding boos from an announced paid attendance of 20,487 for Game 2 at the team's 41,888-capacity stadium. There were more than 39,000 at the opener March 30. Also, the stadium's scoreboards malfunctioned through most of the first inning."

blahblahhblah Amazingly prescient photo, or Nationals Park circa 2015?

What is the excuse? It was 50 degrees tonight, which isn't ideal but certainly isn't stay home from the game weather. I know April is the lowest month for MLB attendance, but that usually doesn't apply when a team opens a brand new stadium. Worse, does this mean the Nats have sold fewer than 20,000 season ticket packages? (It does. According to the Washington Post, the new stadium has a base of just over 18,000, down from the 21,000 for the first season at RFK.) Even though the Marlins lack star power, they're a team the Nats should beat. That should encourage some people to come and see a win.

As I've said before, the Nats are in a very difficult position. Washington is not a good baseball city to begin with, and it will take a winner in any sport other than football to draw the crowds out. What's more, Orioles' owner Peter Angelos basically owns and controls the income stream that should have come from television, as Nats' TV revenue was his compensation for MLB forcing a competitor into his backyard. Without TV, the Nats' revenue must come from revenue sharing, merchandising and ticket sales/concessions. If you take away ticket sales and concessions, you don't have enough revenue to build a champion. If you don't build a contender, a new stadium won't be enough to keep people coming. Just ask the Pirates, and Pittsburgh is a great sports city.

It won't get much better this week. According to Nats' Team President Stan Kasten (routinely and incorrectly referred to as the owner by Washington's--and possibly the nation's--premiere news radio station WTOP), crowds in the 20,000s are expected for the remainder of the homestand against Florida and Atlanta. According to Kasten, "It's also good for us. It's the right size crowd for us to keep learning things." I hope that includes learning how to market to a transplant city that just doesn't care much about the home team.

Everyone thinks I'm exaggerating when I give the Nationals a ten year run in Washington, but so far they haven't proven me wrong.

70 Responses:

WFY said...

Isn't that twice as much as BAAAltimore had for a game last week?

J-Red said...

Good point Yaley, except that Camden Yards is 16 years old and Baltimore has a Metro area of 2.6M to Washington's 5.3M.


WFY said...

The Nats attendance will be fine, not exceptional, just fine. Right now, the two "winter" teams are in playoff runs, so that is taking away some of the attention and $ from the Nats. It'll pick up soon enough.

It seems like your anger is misplaced. Our villain is your villain too -- Peter Angelo$. He has run the O's into the ground and not even hit .500 for a decade. He seems like a better target for your vitriol than the Nats.

"ben" said...

TOP calls Kasten the owner?! I don't believe it.

Russell said...

I didn't expect the Nats to sell out, but it is really concerning that they've sold fewer season ticket packages for this year than for the first year in RFK. That's not a sign of a growing fan base.

On the other hand, the Nats attendance did exceed the O's, Reds, and Rockies (by pct) last night. But the O's and Reds played day games and it was around freezing in Denver.

J-Red said...

My vitriol is directed at Major League Baseball. Everyone told them baseball wouldn't work in D.C. (for the third time). No ownership group could get their stuff together for long enough to make a serious bid for over twenty years. The polls indicated that people in D.C. were indifferent to baseball, but a very vocal minority spun the media to make it look like the city was hungry for baseball. The city is not now, nor has it ever been, hungry for baseball. Maybe prior to white flight and 60 hour work weeks, but not since the mid-1960s.

Then, in the ultimate insult, the white powerbrokers (and the politicians who are fueled by their cash) foisted a citizen-paid $611M stadium (now nearly $700M) on a city of about 588,000 people. 20% of the city is below poverty level. 55% of the city identifies as African-American, which is not a typically baseball hungry culture, yet those people bear the same burden to stilt this franchise up until it does or does not succeed.

So, as usual, the average D.C. resident "paid" over $1000 to build a stadium they never wanted but the white folks and the people in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County did. Actually, it's worse than that becuse the city has to pay interest on those bonds. If the stadium draws 10,000 to 15,000 people routinely from 2010 on (or, possibly, from July on), there will be no economic revitalization because no one will be near the Navy Yard to patronize the businesses. Unlike Gallery Place and Chinatown, people don't work within walking distance of Navy Yard. It's not a convenient stop on the way home for most of the well-heeled D.C. residents. They won't pop over on Metro for lunch.

Camden Yards was built with public funds, but it was integrated into an already succeeding revitalization plan. The stadium was used to successfully expand the Inner Harbor westward to Martin Luther King Blvd. Yes, lottery funds were used and, yes, the lottery typically has a negative impact on poor residents, but Camden Yards has legitimately benefited the city greatly, including poorer neighborhoods. The Nationals Park does no such thing.

This is such a total clusterfuck on so many levels that I actually appreciate Angelos a little bit.

"ben" said...

While all that sounds about right, I still think D.C. can support a baseball team as much as most cities that have teams. If the only cities that had teams were the cities that sell out all their games, well...maybe MLB should consider having an 80-game schedule instead of 162, or contract to a 20-team league.

I suppose the team could have gone to Charlotte, although they've lost an NBA team once. Where else would you propose putting the Expos? I forgot what the other choices were.

J-Red said...

Norfolk, Northern Virginia, Portland.

J-Red said...

Technically Vegas, but MLB would be nervous like all the other pro leagues.

Norfolk would have been ideal because it is a rapidly growing metropolitan base with a big military presence. Plus, they have no baseball allegiances.

"ben" said...

Well, I guess I just disagree that those options make any sense. The NoVa one really makes no sense since that would be a DC team.

I thought you were arguing against DC having a team at all, not just the wisdom of having the stadium built in the city.

big tuna said...

maybe everyone just left early...

J-Red said...

No, the D.C. market is not a totally untenable place for baseball, just the District itself. I'm not mad at the Nats for competing with the Orioles, though I am mad at supposed "Nats fans" who were Orioles fans and use Angelos to justify jumping over to the flavor of the week. I guess, now, the Nationals see exactly what you get in terms of loyalty from those fans.

NoVa would have made sense for baseball because Virginia can afford to build a stadium and the surrounding infrastructure. The truth is that D.C. simply cannot afford it, and the majority of D.C. residents have no interest in baseball.

WFY said...

Redevelopment is happening check out jdland.com.

There is no direct taxation of D.C. residents to build the ballpark. The bonds are financed in part by taxes on large business. You could some of this trickles down, but it would seem negligible.

Fans from areas outside of The District are bringing new money into the city rather than spending it in their own jurisdictions. There are taxes on tickets and everything bought at the ballpark.

Have you ever been to the Norfolk area?

Keep in mind, during the first season most D.C. fans were not permitted to watch the game because the TV rights were owned by someone who had an interest in seeing the Nats fail. Shouldn't you be mad at him for trying to sabotage the city's investment?

If you are mad that Baltimore is no longer the only place to see major league baseball, just come out and say it.

"ben" said...

You have now opened up two different discussions.

1) While I thought I agreed with you at first about the overly optimistic views of the Navy Yard revitalization based on illogical comparisons to the Inner Harbor and the Verizon Center, I do not agree that putting the team in Alexandria solves all the problems. It would certainly be nicer for DC residents because they wouldn't be footing the bill, but I fail to see how it's better for MLB and the Nats. You say DC cannot afford it, but clearly they did. It's done. It has been built. It's possible their city will suffer as a result, but not the Nats. This notion that there are no fans in the city makes no sense. Lots of teams draw their fans from outside the city limits, so what's the difference?

2) Had I stayed in DC I would be a Nats fan over an O's fan. In fact, I am a Nats fan over the O's. I never identified myself as a Baltimorian, always as a Washingtonian. But as the O's were close by and completely treated as the hometown team throughout my childhood, I viewed them as my team. When a new team came to town, MY town, for the first time in my life, it seemed natural to switch allegiances. I do not think that speaks to a lack of loyalty.

In my view, the Baltimore-Washington "rivalry" has always gone one way, in that Baltimore hates Washington and DC didn't even know they were hated until the Ravens came to Baltimore. That's why Washingtonian's had adopted the O's but Baltimorians hadn't adopted the Skins.

I don't have any ill-will towards the O's, but I can see why Jeremy would after having to put up with the constant barrage of trash-talk from Ravens and O's fans.

And you're not even really from Baltimore, J-Red, are you? Or did you grow up on Pratt Street in a cardboard box?

J-Red said...

WFY: We could argue all day over whether the taxes and revenue will pay a $611M to $700M bill, keeping in mind of course the effect on the City's bond rating due to having an outstanding $650M debt and ignoring what they could have done with that capital had it been invested. I'm aware the city paid in the form of business-financed bonds, but if we're using trickle-down economics we're going to have to assume the extraction of revenues from those businesses trickled down to the wage-level employees.

As to your assertion that I should be mad at Angelos for having a pissing battle with Comcast over MASN, I'm again pissed at MLB. They tried to shoehorn a team into a city that a) didn't want it and b) was a part of another team's territory. They gave Angelos the chips. He's going to do what he has to do to make the most money using them. That's how he got rich.

I have been to Norfolk. It's not great, but MLB would be the only game in town.

I'm not mad that Baltimore isn't the only game in town any more. I'm mad that a small minority of vocal, wealthy D.C. and NoVa residents forced a franchise upon a city that didn't want it. Now they are sitting in a half-empty stadium wondering where everybody else is.


The difference is that the people who would be die-hard Nats fans live in the outlying suburbs. Granted, many of those people work in the District and have 90-minute commutes to show for it. Unfortunately, VDOT runs on a set schedule and not after a certain time. The kids aren't already in the District after work, so a Nats fan from NoVa with children faces the pleasant task of driving to Occaquan, picking Junior up, and sitting in traffic again to come back in. That's simply not going to happen on any weeknight. If the team was in NoVa, the fan leaves work at 4p, picks the kids up, and heads to the stadium. That's how you get 40,000 a game in your first season.

I'm not going to revisit the traitor argument we had about a year ago on this blog. I'm not prepared to understand how someone roots for a team for 25-40 years, claiming to have never really been a fan once an (arguably) more convenient option shows up. I will point out, again, that Jeremy's AOL screen name contains a direct reference to Cal Ripken.

J-Red said...

And I grew up in Salisbury and lived in College Park, Laurel, Lanham, Bowie, Savage and New Orleans. I know a little about the patterns of the rich white few telling the masses what's good for them based on their own preferences.

Ryan said...

Hey, they beat the MLS team by 300.

Pettey said...

I may be way off here, but there were a few reasons last nights game was so unattended, even though I attended...

First off, there was a National Championship basketball game being played last night and every baseball stadium was less full than they were opening night.

Secondly, it was unbearably cold. Do you remember how many fans went to the Indians game that got snowed out last year, it was around 6,000. Stop freaking out about the attendance of a game in early April, this stadium will house 30+ every game starting May.

At first I was a bit shocked at how empty the stands are, but let's see how it looks tomorrow before we start deciding to take the team outta the city already.

Jim Boulet, Jr. said...

When your new stadium is heralded by frequent radio ads saying: "don't drive to the game," your customers start feeling unwelcome.

DC expects over 60 percent of fans to take public transportation to the game. DC public transportation (Metro), outside of the District itself is neither convenient nor inexpensive, and it is time-consuming.

RFK had plenty of parking, allowing for an impulse trip in a way Metro does not. (Plus Metro has said it cannot add cars for weeknight games.)

If you take public transportation, consumption of both food and drink are banned on Metro and tailgating at the stadium is problematic, meaning a chance to pay ball park prices for food and beverage.

DC is also unlikely to be a season ticket hotbed (the kind that turns out for crappy April games) simply because of the work schedule of Congress.

Unless one is a federal government employee, irregular hours and lots of them are the norm here, broken up only by various Congressional breaks.

This means that any inconvenience or hindrance to the casual customer is a bigger deal than anyone may have realized.

Until getting to and from the ballpark is at least as convenient as was RFK, I think the Nationals are doomed here. Who wants to spend two hours simply getting to the stadium in order to see the Nationals play the Marlins?

J-Red said...

50 is not unbearably cold. D.C. has a football team too.

I will buy that the National Championship had an effect, if only because when the tickets originally went on sale a lot of Georgetown fans might have thought they needed to save the date.

According to Kasten, tomorrow will be mid-20Ks. I guess they'll blame MLS and the Wizards, but his language in the Washington Post interview was very much in the vein of "Please lower your expectations."

J-Red said...

Agreed Jim Boulet, Jr.

The Metro appeal is great for people without children who work or live in the District. For everyone else it's a nightmare on weeknights.

"ben" said...

I think you should stop implying that I'm arguing that the city of DC will benefit from having built the stadium.

You and the other 19,000 Oriole fans who go to Camden Yards do not live in Baltimore. That was my point.

As for the argument that you are not going to have regarding fan loyalty, Oriole fans from Washington do not claim to have not been fans of the O's or our child hero Cal Ripken.

Allegiances change as the circumstances of your life change. That includes a new team moving into the city you call home. Not everyone changes allegiances as a result, but I personally don't find it hard to understand why many do.

"ben" said...

So regarding Boulet's comment, he is criticizing the exact site and execution of the stadium, not the idea of it being in D.C.

I can buy that more than what J-Red is selling.

J-Red said...

Ben, I'll concede that there are other places in the city that might have made it more likely that fans would support the team, but then you throw the redevelopment argument totally out of the window. It would have been across the Anacostia.

J-Red said...

Also Ben, I'm assuming by "in Washington" you are including Montgomery, Prince George's and Calvert's Counties along with NoVa? Where is the line? Jeremy's home was 20-25 minutes to downtown Baltimore by car and 45 minutes to downtown D.C. by Metro.

"ben" said...

And seeing how I never made the redevelopment argument, I'll gladly throw it out the window.

Your argument has always seemed to be that a stadium in the city limits of DC cannot sustain a baseball team because the kids from Anacostia don't go to games, regardless of who paid for the stadium.

"ben" said...

No, by "in Washington" I mean in Washington D.C., like RFK and like the new stadium and like the Verizon Center and not like FedEx.

When I say Jeremy and I call Washington our hometown, I mean the Washington Post was delivered to our house, our televisions got the D.C. news channels, and our town bordered D.C.

J-Red said...

I think I would need to write a 10-page explanation of my all theories why baseball is doomed to failure in the District. Doing it piecemeal via the comments section leaves me open to a lot of avenues of attack.

Also, Jeremy is from Calverton. Calverton borders Silver Spring and Beltsville. Also, Jeremy hates when I say he's from Calverton.

G Dub said...

Of course the Lerners are happy they didn't invest in the stadium--that might require normal business skills like market research, transportation planning, parking assessments, and the like. This is MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL! We bring FUN to people's miserable lives, at taxpayer expense.

Nor did anyone seem to be interested in asking the Lerners to pay, or MLB right before they sold their rickety team for hundreds of millions of dollars. Zero thirds is what they had in mind, and they got it.

The point is that it has been proven, over and over, that stadiums do nothing for economic development. They create almost no new spending in stadiums--why? because people generally buy their hot dogs inside the park. The teams look very unfavorably upon leaving the stadium to buy food and drinks. The DC council gets some of that money as a tax, which it uses to pay off the bonds. So where's the economic impact?

Camden Yards--same thing. Sadly, the Wire is still taking place there, nearly 20 years after the place opened.

When pushed by repeated taxpayer refusal, lots of teams are forced to build their own park. SF Giants did it, Red Sox pay for their own upgrades, even the Yankees (sort of) paid for their own new place. I can't believe that anyone thought Vegas (no way), Norfolk (no corporations), or Portland (too responsible to waste money on a ballpark) were serious contenders. The DC council was afraid of losing the right to spend 600 million dollars on a glorified bowling alley to Northern Virginia. A little known fact is that all Americans pay for this stadium through energy charges from the city to the Feds. Classy.

Regardless of who is paying for the stadium, the fact of the matter is in 10 years or less the park will be declared "substandard" and "needing upgrades". Boswell and the rest of the sportswriter crowd will be the first to parrot these lines. Who pays for it then? The team? Haha.

"ben" said...

Pretty sure if you wrote a letter to Jeremy's parent's house, you'd address it Silver Spring, MD. The Calverton Swim Club has a Silver Spring address.

Regardless, if your point is that Calverton does not touch D.C., that does not change the strong ties the location has to D.C. rather than Baltimore. It is a location that is close to the border where it starts to get even hazier, but my home and Jeremy's home as kids was distinctly Washington in the ways I have already listed (and more, at least in my case, considering the location of my H.S. being walkable to the D.C. border and most of the people I knew, including my father, worked in D.C. and not Baltimore). We are closer to the D.C. Beltway and not the Baltimore Beltway. We get the D.C. radio stations much more clearly than the Baltimore radio stations.

You need to accept that we have and always will identify with D.C. and not Baltimore.

J-Red said...

Still traitors though. I can't imagine shutting off allegiances that fast.

If, by some impossible miracle, the Orioles remain hot into June it will be interesting to see how many eastern Montgomery County folks start digging up their old orange and black.

Nic said...

Interesting debate. I'll like to throw in my two cents. I was born in Towson, but grew up in Pittsburgh, Gaithersburg, Raleigh, and Catonsville, and currently live in Memphis. (Boo Kansas!) Obviously I traveled alot, but I consider myself a Baltimorian. My dad grew up in B-More, and although most of my family is now all around the country, we still have our family reunions in Baltimore.

I spent 4 years in Gaithersburg which is counted as an outskirt of DC (if I'm correct?) before the Nats moved to DC, and everyone in Gaithersburg were O fans. Yeah, they all blocked up the beltways on Sundays to go to the Redskins games, but they also were the ones blocking 95 to get into Baltimore for the O's. Obviously they were fair weather fans, and maybe the O's are better off without them, but I do find it weird that people can just switch alliances on a drop of a hat. There's still people in Baltimore who haven't jumped on the Raven's bandwagon (my dad at least). His theory is that after the Colts left Bmore that was the end of football in that town. So he adopted the Steelers like 5 years later. Why didn't he just adopt the Redskins? Well the rivalry between DC and Baltimore has been around forever, would you ever imagine a White Sox fan adopting the Cubs if they moved? No. Same reason why I think it's odd that former O fans can suddenly adopt the Nats.

Go J-Red!

"ben" said...

Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in.

Nic, you compare the situation to the Sox and Cubs if one left town. Or a real life example, Dodger and Giant fans did not sign on for the Yankees after their teams went west.

There's a huge difference, though. The Dodger and Cub fans grew up actively rooting against the Yanks. Suburbanites in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area did not grow up hating D.C.

D.C. is our town. We like D.C. A team moves to D.C., we like them.

This isn't hard to understand.

"ben" said...

Fixing a typo. Dodger and Giant fans, not Dodger and Cub fans.

J-Red said...

Correct example: Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. Neither fan would root for the other team if one left town. Likewise, if Memphis got an NFL team, I'd bet a great deal of people would still be fans of the Titans in nearby Nashville, even though the Titans are not very old.

Of course, the franchises thought about this. That's why we have the Carolina Panthers (so Raleigh adopts them), the Texas Rangers (Fort Worth), Tennessee Titans (Memphis, Knoxville), Golden State Warriors (Oakland/San Fran) and the New England Patriots (Hartford, plus Kraft could threaten to move the team within New England). Unfortunately for the Orioles (but fortunately for Baltimore), EBW (who owned the Redskins also) decided to just take Baltimore off the jersey, instead of changing the team name to the Maryland Orioles or the Capital Orioles. Reverse examples would be the Los Angelos Angels of Anaheim nee Anaheim Angels nee California Angels, who first tried to be the default team for all of California not in L.A., S.D., S.F. or Oakland only to later try to recapture the L.A. market, and the Arizona Cardinals, who tried to lure people throughout Arizona who were formerly L.A. Raiders and L.A. Rams fans.

Anyway, we're again going to have to agree to disagree on this issue. This is far-fetched, but if Baltimore obtained some sorry-ass hockey team from Canada, I think I'd probably still root for the Caps.

Jeremy said...

You took the Calverton exit to my house because it was the closest off 95. I swam at the Calverton swim club. But I actually grew up 5 minutes from that exit from 95 and from that pool in Silver Spring. Colesville to be exact, which is a subset of the amorphous Silver Spring. Please don't tell me I grew up in Calverton when I didn't. I am a Washingtonian. I always have been. I had quicker access to downtown Baltimore because traffic on 95 moved faster. But my house growing up was 10 miles as the crow flies from the White House (downtown DC, not even just to the border). It was 30 miles as the crow flies from downtown Baltimore. I don't really think there's that much comparison. I appreciate you telling me where I grew up. I suppose you grew up in Delmar, right? Because all towns in Wicomico County are the same?

"ben" said...

J-Red, you aren't old enough to have been a Baltimore Colts fan. What were you when they left, three?

How did you manage to become a Caps fan, but not a Skins fan?

Is it because the arena used to be in Landover, so as far as you're concerned they are the Maryland Capitals?

And are you a Wizards fan (previously, of course, the Baltimore Bullets) or do you just not like the NBA enough to care one way or the other?

Chris Needham said...

For the record, WTOP is partially right. Kasten is a minority owner of the team.

Eric Fingerhut said...

I grew up in Potomac, and was never an Orioles "fan"--I sort of followed the team because the Post wrote about them a lot and some of my friends were fans, but I didn't really care about them because as someone who grew up considering himself a Washingtonian (and whose dad grew up a Senators fan) they weren't my team--they were Baltimore's team. But even for people not like me, is it so strange for people to adopt a new team that comes to their city after rooting for another team for years? Why even have expansion teams? There were plenty of Redskins fans in North Carolina in the 1980s, but when Carolina got the Panthers, I would expect that they would want to become Panthers fans, since they now had a team of their own. Is that really so strange?

"ben" said...

Makes sense. I knew WTOP was good.

Eric Fingerhut said...

Oh, and on every D.C. resident "paying" $1,000 for the stadium--please, get your facts straight. The bonds are being paid off from three revenue streams. The first is $5 million or so a season in rent from the owners. That doesn't cost D.C. residents anything. The second is a tax on tickets and concessions at the stadium. That means that people like me who live in Maryland are paying for the stadium when we go to games and people who live in the District who don't go to games don't pay that tax at all. Then, there's the tax on business with gross receipts over $3 million, which was actually supported by the District business community because it supported development of the area. None of these revenue streams would even exist if the stadium wasn't built, so please stop spreading the fiction that this money comes directly out of the D.C. treasury and that it could have gone to the schools or something. it's a nice sentiment, but it's off-base.

"ben" said...

By the way, thank you, Chris Needham for your blog's research reporting on Comerica's second game:

"Detroit drew 21,405 in their second game in 44 degree weather." A Wednesday night, he also notes.

Iron-clad proof that Detroit cannot support a major-league baseball team. I suspect it won't be long before they move to Norfolk, seeing as how no one will go to see a winless team. God, they stink.

J-Red said...

See Ben, I told you it would piss Jeremy off if I said he was from Calverton. Next time I'm going to say Wheaton to see if I can make his head explode.

I was too young to remember the Colts being there. I fought great peer pressure to avoid succumbing to the Redskins, especially when I was the only person in my 3rd grade class to say I was rooting for Denver against the Redskins. Before the Ravens came, I rooted for players I like a lot on certain teams, like Randall Cunningham and various white receivers (Tom Waddell with the Bears).

Eric Fingerhut, we covered how the District residents "pay" for the stadium. As I pointed out somewhere in the mass of comments above, if the District is claiming redevelopment trickles down to the residents then it has to accept that increased taxes on large businesses trickle down to wage employees.

J-Red said...

And Ben, Detroit had some success that bailed out what was looking like a stadium disaster. If they bear the brunt of the economic downturn (and a major credit crunch making most Americans unable to get new car financing would definitely do that), Detroit very well might be unable to support a baseball team.

Those attendance numbers have nothing to do with that, but you might have picked a better example. Perhaps the Nats will represent the NL in the World Series next year and the stadium will become a place to be seen. Perhaps they won't.

Oh yeah, and Comerica was 38% public financed, 62% private and only cost $300M. And the stadium was given to a municipal body.

As a side note, I will say that the Nats would be helped if they didn't have a home game, a day off, a road series, then another home game, then another day off, then a few more home games.

Eric Fingerhut said...

I was just pointing out that those "white folks and the people in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia" you refer to as wanting the stadium are actually paying for the stadium, every single time they enter the gates. Meanwhile, the woman who lives in Northeast Washington, works for the federal government, didn't want a stadium and doesn't go to a game isn't really paying for it. Doesn't seem like that bad a deal to me for either group.

"ben" said...

J-Red, I really like how you throw out the financing of Comerica as though that has any relevance whatsoever to the discussion.

I also like how you noticed that teams generally get more attendance when the team is doing well (see Baltimore's recent history for another example). B-more is getting dangerously close to Detroit-like numbers from their 2004 and 2005 seasons.

So, I therefore like how you say it's a bad example, when it's actually a very reasonable example.

Your benchmark for unable to support a team seems to be about 25,000, and there are a handful of teams who have been treading in those waters for awhile. So they will be climbing all over each other to build a stadium in Portland with their private funds in the hopes of staying afloat. That would include, by the way, Cleveland, where the AL Central champs did not even get to 25,000.

And I like how you never answered why you succumbed to the lure of the Washington Capitals while resisting the Skins.

big tuna said...

j-red, not sure if you know much about Detroit but the economy here is the worst it has been since who knows when. They ARE bearing the brunt of the economic downturn. Michigan is 50th out of 50 states right now in terms of economy. It doesn't matter. They will never not be able to support a baseball team.

They are more than likely going to surpass last year's attendance numbers (assuming they get on track) and last year they averaged 37,618 a game. And those are probably 80% suburbanites who also work (some downtown).

As far as a "stadium disaster", CoPa averaged 30,106 in their first year. Before the 2005 run out of nowhere, they averaged 22,749 a game (and the team sucked). In the last 5 years of Tiger Stadium they averaged 18,051.

So these numbers somewhat contradict what j-red said about a stadium disaster. I don't know whose argument I am supporting here, I just thought I would give you actual facts.

The point is that if a team sucks, people aren't going to go see it (see 1995-1998 Tigers). If you get a new stadium people will come for a couple years (see 2000-2001 Tigers). If you continue to suck they will stop coming (see 2002-2003 Tigers). And if you get good people will come back (see 2004-present Tigers). At least that is how it works in baseball town. If you want to see how it works in a non baseball town, see Miami. DC will probably be somewhere in between but more like Detroit I imagine.

Tigers' attendance

J-Red said...

Ben: The Capitals never bent over backwards to keep a football team out of Baltimore.

The 25,000 thing is only a good benchmark when the stadium is brand new and the franchise is so young. You need people primed to care if they ever get good.

Eric Fingerhut: I've said before here that there's no way we can have any kind of informed argument over whether those taxes will net $611 to $700M in addition to the bond interest.

Tuna: I'm pretty familiar with Detroit due to an ex who was from Fraser (near St. Clair Shores). I don't know how applicable Detroit really is to Washington in many ways. Many industrial cities use sports to define their identity, especially Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore and others who have been through really tough times. Those people are more primed to latch on to sports because it lends respectability to a city whose reputation isn't sparkling. Washington doesn't have that problem, just like Miami doesn't. I think it leans more towards Miami than Detroit.

J-Red said...

Of course the obvious reason you can't compare Detroit to Washington is that a much larger proportion of Tigers' fans have to make serious budget decisions about going to a game. The Washington "fan base", to the extent it exists, doesn't have to make such hard choices.

big tuna said...

j-red: I agree with that. That is how we treat our sports teams here. That is how you can explain constant Lions sell outs. So you would be better off to analyze the attendance trends of other DC teams to figure out how they treat their sports teams. Does DC support the Wizards, Caps and Skins? Is there a city that supports their basketball, hockey and football teams that do not support the baseball team? I have no idea. But if you did the research it will probably come down to the success of those teams.

G Dub said...

its absurd to say that those 3 "revenue streams" will come close to paying for the stadium.

The rent will not go toward principle or interest. The rent will primarily pay for stadium upkeep and operating costs.

A small proportion of sales of merchandise in the stadium will go to retire the bonds. Commerce lost to the business community outside the stadium, and not a "profit" for the city by any means.

I think the "business community" was a lot more divided than was reported in the WaPo and elsewhere. Your presumption is that the stadium will spur economic development. I still say this is an entirely unproven assumption (actually proven to be untrue!), particularly when you take into account that many urban areas have been upgraded without a stadium being built at public expense.

This stadium is not "free" by any means. It is widely supported by tax dollars, subsidies, and tax waivers not available to other businesses. Consider if that land had been used as an office park, an apartment complex. Would taxes be levied? Of course they would! Why should a stadium be any different?

This will be a mediocre baseball team for years and all the BS about civic pride, identity, etc will not count for much when your team is losing. A waste of money of the first order...

"ben" said...

"Ben: The Capitals never bent over backwards to keep a football team out of Baltimore."


Now I look forward to your thoughts on how Angelos did not attempt to keep a baseball team out of Washington, as I heard from someone on this blog who goes by the name of J-Red that it is unacceptable to cite Angelos as a reason for turning from the O's to the Nats.

Warren Cromartie said...

What exactly does this mean?:

"Of course the obvious reason you can't compare Detroit to Washington is that a much larger proportion of Tigers' fans have to make serious budget decisions about going to a game. The Washington "fan base", to the extent it exists, doesn't have to make such hard choices."

I think that people outside of Michigan tend to think that 8% unemployment or whatever it is around here and the well-publicized economic problems we're facing means that everyone is flat broke, when indeed, 92% or so do have jobs. And it's not like Tigers games break your bank. The most plentiful walk-up tickets are $12 and if you don't mind walking a bit, lots of parking can be had for free-to-$6. Apparently 30,000 people in the area have enough money for season tickets, and we're already at 3 million tickets sold for the year before the first game is.... won.

PS - I was at that 2nd game at Comerica, and didn't understand why the 20,000 at Nats Park was an issue - doesn't every team outside of Boston and Wrigley get a dropoff for game 2?

J-Red said...

The parallels between Cooke keeping a football team out of Baltimore and Angelos keeping a baseball team out of Washington are obvious, and you're not going to like how I distinguish the two situations.

Robert Irsay, Sr., moved the Colts from Baltimore over a dispute with state officials and then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer in particular. He was an acerbic drunk who became furious that he could not strongarm the City and State into doing whatever he wanted. He used Indianapolis to leverage his demands and Baltimore called his bluff. Rather than back down, he picked up and left. Baltimore never stopped supporting the team (though attendance plummeted in the last year due to Elway's hold out and increasing anger with Irsay).

Washington, on the other hand, lost two MLB teams due to pure indifference. They then spent the ensuing 30 years, from 1971 until about 2001 indifferent to baseball. Then some opportunities opened up with some teams doing poorly and a handful of wealthy NoVa businessmen who always dreamed of owning a MLB team started trying to create the idea that Washington wanted a team. Unfortunately their financing fell through right after they got MLB's attention, so the Lerners and a couple other groups began making a play. When MLB bought the Expos from Jeffrey Loria, Angelos realized MLB was very serious about moving the team. Once it became obvious it was inevitable (games in Puerto Rico probably tipped him off) he dug in and made sure he extracted as much as possible from MLB.

So Baltimore had 13 years of bitter hatred towards Irsay, never adopted the Redskins (though some did adopt other teams, particularly the Steelers) and never stopped trying to get a new team by any means necessary (Bucs, Rams, etc. were all rumored to be definitely coming, and the Jax/Carolina expansion was purportedly a done deal). Washington had 30 years of mild nostalgia and half-hearted efforts here and there to obtain a team for vanity purposes.

There's certainly no indication that Angelos submarined multiple serious efforts to bring baseball to Washington, unless you count him saying "They're happy being Orioles fans!", which was pretty true until the last decade of mismanagement. The downturn of the Orioles is the only reason the tiny minority of Washingtonians wanting their own team turned into a lukewarm larger minority of Washingtonians wanting their own team. If anything, Nats fans need to thank Angelos. Washingtonians had a way out from Angelos, whereas true Orioles fans have to ride it out.

J-Red said...

Warren, every team gets a significant dropoff for Game 2, except when they open a brand new stadium. According to the Washington Post, the Nats' game two attendance is the lowest of any team opening a new stadium in the modern era. Going to Nationals Park is obviously not a must-do event in Washington. It's just somewhere on the list, along with the Caps, Wizards, United, cultural events, concerts, theater, museums, etc. People forget that the United are close to a fifth major sport in D.C. The new stadium is apparently just another option. That's not going to build a passionate fan base. If they remain bad and the novelty of the stadium wears off, where are the Nats going to fall on the priority of things Washingtonians could do on a weeknight?

We're not here to knock Detroit. Comerica is far more affordable than Nationals Park. I'm just saying that people in the Washington Metro area have more disposable income than pretty much any other metro area in the country.

Plus, work in Detroit is less stable than work in Washington. 92% of the population might be employed, but there's more of a saving mentality in Detroit than in Washington. Money is made for spending here. In the Detroit area, particularly for the auto industry, money must be saved for the unexpected.

Eric Fingerhut said...


I never said the stadium was "free" or that the city was making a "profit," even though you imply that. I just think the deal isn't as bad for the city as many have claimed, particularly because the city implemented what is essentially a commuter tax (something the city council has broached in the past).

You say that commuter tax is a "small percentage of sales of merchandise" at the stadium will go to retire the bonds. Actually, it's 10 percent of every ticket and every food item sold. It's noted at every concession stand. And is it really that "small"? That seems like a pretty decent sized tax to me. And is that really hurting the business community in D.C.? If I hadn't been at the ballpark last Saturday night, I would have been spending my money in Maryland, where I live.

As for your skepticism about whether the ballpark will lead to economic development in the area, you're correct--there have been studies that show it doesn't help. But considering that the building of an arena for basketball and hockey--the Verizon Center--led to an incredible amount of economic development in a neighborhood a few Metro stops away from the where the stadium is, there's certainly precedent for something similar happening around Nationals Park.

Eric Fingerhut said...

The parallels between Bob Irsay moving the Colts and Calvin Griffith and Bob Short moving the Senators are obvious, and there's very little distinction. All three were greedy and wanted to make a buck. It had nothing to do with "indifference." If you want to argue that attendance for Senators games was lower than for some other teams at the same time, fine. In the final 26 years of the first Senators team, they had four winning seasons. Doesn't exactly inspire people to go to the ballpark. Under Short, they had the highest ticket prices in the league and still had a bad team. I would think someone familiar with Irsay would understand greedy owners, but I guess not.

"ben" said...

J-Red, I'm more open to the distinctions you draw than you believed I would be. However, you are also correct that I do not accept it as enough of a distinction to say it's okay for you to resent Cooke but not for me to resent Angelos, who would have kept the Nats out if he were able and handicapped them as much as possible instead (as is his right).

I also reject your notion that MoCo fans switched from the O's to the Nats to be trendy. As I already said, we identify more with D.C. than Baltimore, period. Some people switched, some people didn't. It obviously doesn't have to do with winning, as the Nats suck pretty bad.

J-Red said...

Ben: But you do agree that a team never comes to Washington if the Orioles remain as even viable playoff contenders?

Eric: Maybe I'm underinformed about the Senators' ownership situation because of my age and because I never witnessed the bitterness in D.C. that I saw in Baltimore. I think it ties in to my point earlier that in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland having football and baseball is a huge point of civic pride. It's a symbol of good when things are going poorly. In Washington baseball is viewed as something the city is supposed to have because it is a major city. I never felt the hurt and longing that I saw in Baltimore.

"ben" said...

To answer your last question, J-Red, I have no reason to believe the Nats arrival correlates with the lack of success from the O's.

The strongest correlation I saw was as the Expos became increasingly worse and it was imminent that they had to move, the noise in D.C. about a team got much louder.

The O's were contenders for basically three different seasons in my baseball watching lifetime (1986 to present). Let's not pretend they were always in the hunt until 2000.

I agree that Washington does not NEED a team in the same way that other cities do. But that does not mean it cannot support a team.

All things Me..... said...

i have lived in norfolk for 12 years now(former navy). the ownership group that was trying to put their bid together did a decent job and made a decent case.

they were ready to temporarily put the Nats in harbor park(current home of the norfolk tides, baltimore AAA). they had a deal in principle to give the Nats their own channel on Cox cable. And using census figures for the SE VA-NE NC area, this is the largest TV market in the US without a Major League franchise.

one of you pointed out that there are no allegiances here. that's untrue. seeing as the Tides were the Mets' AAA affiliate for 38 years(1969-2007), there are many Mets fans in the area. that would work out well for attendance, seeing as they are in the same division. Not to mention that this region is a hotbed for young baseball talent(Cuddyer, Wright, the Uptons, Verlander, etc, etc)

but lets not forget the most important thing here: what is the quality of the product? let's face it, these aren't the yankees or sox we're talking about.

J-Red said...

I made the point about allegiances. I didn't realize the area supported the Mets. If you believe Ben though, fans instantly become a fan of the new team when their town gets their own team.

I, personally, felt Norfolk was a good place for the Expos. Better than Portland at least.

All things Me..... said...

we have a good mix of allegiances here. its a large military town, so we have people from all over the country either passing through on military duty, or staying and working in the civilian sector. me, for example, i grew up in the suburbs of boston. i'm a red sox fan first, but i'm also a baseball fan. i go to the Norfolk Tides games here, even if they're not playing the Paw Sox.

A similar city to look at here may be San Diego. I know its a bigger market, but they also have a high military presence. I would be interested to know how many people at Padres games are military.

Norfolk also has a decent airport, and runs planes to Baltimore, DC, Philly, Boston, Chicago, NY, etc every day. its a popular tourist area in the summer.

i really believe that the Nats could have survived in Norfolk. And i also believe that, just like the whole convoluted marlins/expos/red sox ownership fiasco, bud played politics instead of looking out for the long term good of the franchise

J-Red said...

The military and tech presence in Norfolk is part of why I thought a team could do well. There are a lot of young men with disposable income down there. A lot of D.C.-area people don't realize just how big Norfolk-Newport News-Hampton Roads-Chesapeake-Virginia Beach have become. Even the I-64 corridor down through tidewater is expanding.

Pete said...

A few notes:

I was at the Nat's game on Monday night, and it was FREEZING outside. Yes, the stadium was less than half full, but it's only April.

There was an NCAA National Championship game on TV the same night.

The Wiz and Caps both locked up playoff berths this week... people in DC aren't thinking of summer nights in the ball park yet.

On a positive note - I found it very easy (read as 25minutes door to gate) to get from my office in Rockville MD to the ball park. Beltway to GW Parkway to 395 to South Capitol Street were less than bumper to bumper.

With all of the new construction ongoing around the ball park I'm sure people will see this a stop after work, as they'll be living across the street / down the block / in the neighborhood.

Give it some time, people will come.

Jeremy said...

Jason likes young men who have disposable income. Just call him David Hernandez.

G Dub said...


Your spending does little good to Washington DC, or Maryland. This is a well known principle called the "substitution effect". You aren't going bowling, eating dinner, or seeing a movie at an existing facility in Washington DC. You are spending money at a ballpark. 90 percent goes to the team (essentially) and 10 percent goes to the city to pay off the bonds on the stadium (the accounting of which stretches credulity--and many cities now are paying MUCH higher interest rates due to problems in the bond markets, so assume the forecasting sucks). I would say the TEAM is a huge winner, and the city, at best, is surviving.

So you can't even call it a "tax" since none of this money is going to the city coffers. Its going right to the bank. I would say its rather unfair to other developers, etc, who don't get to count on massive subsidies to produce for-profit business complexes.

You also again, like most, fail to address the fact that every American is being charged because the city is charging higher energy fees explicitly to pay for the stadium. Did the rest of America get to vote on this? Or is this what we owe DC metro residents so they can exercise their "right" to watch mediocre baseball? WHY CAN"T BASEBALL PAY FOR ITS OWN STADIUMS?

So in summary, DC at best breaks even, and is probably in the long run losing money due to higher interest rates and energy costs. This will necessitate either a wider and deeper tax collection, a bailout from the feds, or both.

Meanwhile the Lerners and MLB get a free place to do business and enjoy massive asset price growth in their franchise plaything.

How come DC doesn't have a plan to build bowling alleys and movie theaters? Why is baseball different?

Lastly, Norfolk would never do well as a MLB city. Its another Tampa--large parts of the population have lower than average incomes and education levels. Few corporations to purchase luxury boxes and premium seats on a YEARLY basis (not just when the team wins). Its a much more expensive game being played than it was in 1977.

Nic said...

Let's keep this going so it can reach 100 comments.

"Yes, We Can!"

Eric Fingerhut said...


In principle, I agree with you--baseball should pay for their own stadiums. But in practice, since the majority of cities in the past 20 years have built partly to mostly publicly funded stadiums, I'm not sure why or how Washington should be any different--especially because it had to give MLB a reason to come to the city. All I was saying is that it is extremely misleading to say that the money for the stadium is financed completely by D.C. residents, considering a good percentage of the attendance at the stadium is made up of Maryland and Virginia residents--and they're paying for the stadium too. Maybe not enough for your tastes, but still a solid percentage. Still seems like a better way to finance a stadium than the lottery money that went to the TWO publicly financed stadiums in Baltimore--considering lotteries are well known to attract mostly low-income customers.

As for your statement about D.C. raising the energy costs of everyone in the city to pay for the stadium, I have no idea what you're talking about. I believe some sort of energy tax may have been bandied about in the initial plans, but the tax on businesses is a gross receipts tax for businesses making more than $3 million.

G Dub said...

Here's a "modest proposal". Tell baseball owners to pay for their own stadiums and make their own business decisions. I'll bet stadiums don't cost $611 million bucks when a private owner is paying the bill rather than a bunch of taxpayers.

Just admit it, the city got absolutely rooked. That team was in such bad states that it was playing home games in San Juan and entertaining offers from such no-hope candidates as Norfolk and Las Vegas. And from this dominating position the government of DC decided to pay full freight. Well done.

Strangely enough, Jack Evans (local government crook of the century), in this column, clearly states that he drew up plans to tax the federal government for the stadium, on the grounds that it wouldnt cost the DC taxpayer anything. Classy! http://www.georgetowner.com/coverfeature.shtml

In the end, your team sucks, your city sucks, and you have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on a foolish entertainment project. Next time build a movie theater, its cheaper for everyone.

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