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.