D.C. council approves Nationals lease

Heads are exploding today, but they’re not Bob DuPuy’s: Late last night the D.C. city council returned to session and approved a modified version of the Washington Nationals stadium lease by a 9-4 vote. (For those counting at home, the votes switching sides were Kwame Brown, Carol Schwartz, and, incredibly, Marion Barry, who earlier in the day had been one of the most vocal opponents of the deal.) Details are still sketchy – the AP reports that the new lease caps “the city’s total cost at just less than $611 million,” but not who’d be left holding the bag with any overruns on land and infrastructure.

The whole mess now gets dumped back in MLB’s lap, which must approve (MLB, that is, not the lap) the new lease by March 6 or the deal is off. DuPuy, MLB’s COO, told the AP he’d withhold comment until later today: “I cannot comment until I see it and see what impact, if any, it has on the contract they approved a year ago December. They have amended it repeatedly tonight, so I am not really sure what it says.”

If the new deal holds up, it certainly has the potential to be an improvement on the original one agreed to back in 2004 – though only in the sense that spending $611 million is better than spending $535 million plus a blank check. Given their lack of viable alternatives, it would certainly seem to be in MLB’s interest to swallow hard and agree to cover cost overruns, then hightail it out of town with their $450 million check from the team’s new, as-yet-undisclosed private owners, who’ve been waiting patiently in the wings for the lease controversy to be settled. But then, MLB has never been known for making its decisions based on good sense. This one ain’t gonna be over till it’s over.

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