Somewhere in the middle of this mess of a World Series media cycle — after the assistant GM berating female reporters scandal but before the booing of Donald Trump and flashing of Gerrit Cole — the New York Times ran a puff piece on Washington Nationals fans that came down to “86 years since a World Series, Baby Shark, our troubled times, blah blah blah.” But Pat Garofalo, in his Billionaire Boondoggle newsletter, noted one paragraph that stood out as exceptionally evidence-free:
When the ballpark opened in the Navy Yard neighborhood 11 years ago, the area was struggling to move past decades of drugs and violence. It was a wasteland of car repair shops, garbage truck parking lots and asphalt factories. But the ballpark led the way for restaurants, condos and hotels, and Audi Field, home of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, down the street.
We’ve covered the Stadium Catalyst Fallacy in this space before: Look at a sports venue, look at development taking place around it, and declare “mission accomplished.” But when you have a sports facility being built in a neighborhood that is already ripe for development — which was absolutely the case in D.C., if only because there are few sites anywhere in the District that aren’t being eyed for development — then, as Garofalo notes, “We can’t know for sure what would have happened in the alternative universe in which the Nationals never came to D.C. and Nats Park was never built.”
Then Garofalo digs up another recent quote about the Nationals’ alleged economic windfall for D.C. that is even more bizarre:
“Where would we be without the arena, the convention center and hotel, the ballpark, Audi soccer stadium,” Evans asks and answers, “We’d be Detroit, a city still struggling in every respect.”
That’s D.C. city councilmember Jack Evans, the godfather of Nationals Park, in a recent Washington City Paper article about how the stadium deal “nearly fell apart.” (The article doesn’t really explain that bit, but if you want the fuller recap, it’s covered both in the later chapters of Field of Schemes and here on this site as well.) Notes Garofalo:
What a weird comparison for Evans to make: Detroit also has publicly-funded sports stadiums, as well as convention centers and hotels. The chief difference between the cities is that Detroit’s main industry — automaking — went bust, and D.C.’s — the business of government — didn’t. No soccer field or convention center changed that.
I would suggest that we all point and laugh at Jack Evans for being a doofus, but presumably everyone is already pointing and laughing at Evans’ ongoing ethics scandals, so to double down would be cruel, if fun.