Maintenance costs on Nationals Park to bring city’s tab to more than $700m

Dave McKenna at Deadspin has a long article up about Washington, D.C.’s inexplicable love for sports subsidies, mostly focused on the new Wizards practice facility (public cost $55 million plus any overruns, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis’s cost next to nothing) and a possible new stadium for the city’s NFL team. But the most interesting tidbit for me was this:

On the same day when the mayor oversaw the groundbreaking for the Wizards practice space, Events DC head Greg O’Dell testified at a sparsely attended oversight hearing held in the city council chamber that $160 million was earmarked for improvements and repairs to Nationals Park.

Wait, what? When did this happen?

The hearing, it turns out, was on February 18, but as our own frequent commenter PowerBoater69 points out on another site, this isn’t exactly new money: The $160 million is just what D.C. has budgeted for future maintenance and upgrades to the Nationals‘ stadium. You can hear O’Dell’s comments about this starting at 2:40 on the video linked above:

“We conducted a study to look at this very issue, and we frankly are doing it for all our assets. The estimated costs over the remaining life of the stadium is about $160 million.”

So no, it’s not a new subsidy — taking on maintenance costs is something that D.C. agreed to in its original deal with the Nats. But it is a dollar figure for an existing subsidy that hasn’t been previously priced out. Even if you back that number down to a present value of, say, $100 million, then when added to the $611 million in construction funds that D.C. approved ten years ago Tuesday, the total public cost for the Nationals stadium will end up being more than $700 million. On a stadium that was originally supposed to cost $440 million. You elected officials really need to start reading the fine print, guys.


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8 comments on “Maintenance costs on Nationals Park to bring city’s tab to more than $700m

  1. The District is not actually subsidized by the Federal government (well not at a higher rate than any other state anyway). For instance the bonds for Nationals Park is paid by the following:

    1) A gross receipts tax on businesses that make more than $5 million a year
    2) a share of the utility taxes paid by every non-residential taxpayer
    3) a 4.25% special sales tax on stadium sales
    4) rent paid by the Nationals

    None of which is money from the Federal government. (#1 and #2 doesn’t apply to the Federal government property either due to the Supremacy Clause and other rules).

  2. When the stadium was proposed, the utilities tax was definitely going to be assessed against Federal Buildings as well. Did that change somehow?

  3. From what I understood, the electricity and a separate water tax on Federal buildings were both thrown out a while ago since they weren’t direct charges on the use of the service.

  4. Well, all I can say is Mr. McKenna, PLEASE do not mention professional badminton, we don’t want these idiots getting ideas

  5. Isn’t the Federal government the overwhelming reason DC isn’t Baltimore or even Detroit. And doesn’t entire country pay into that economic driver. Same can be said for Wall Street and NYC. Banks are subsidized by Feds. Therefore large part of NY economy subsidized by taxpayers from across entire country.

  6. Sorry, but PowerBoater69 sounds way more like a Kinja screen name than one here and made me giggle like a middle schooler.

  7. Thanks for the mention. I considered forwarding that article to you after seeing it on the Nats site but it was so full of inaccuracies that I didn’t bother. Deadspin should fact check before publishing.

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