Never let it be said that sports leagues won’t ever pay for their own stadium construction: Major League Baseball has announced that it’s building a 12,500-seat ballpark at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to host a special “celebration of the nation’s service members” on July 3 featuring a regular-season game between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins.
Well, sort of. The “ballpark,” based on available renderings, will be a bunch of temporary bleachers assembled together into stadium shape, and presumably disassembled again soon thereafter. (The field is eventually supposed to be used for recreational softball, which presumably doesn’t require 12,500 seats.) One report has the cost at around $3 million, which sounds about right for bleacher rental. The money is reportedly coming from MLB’s Industry Growth Fund, a pool of cash from owner revenue sharing and union contributions that’s supposed to be used for growing the game’s popularity, which this is, maybe, somehow?
Still, nice gesture by MLB to provide half an Alejandro De Aza worth of cash toward honoring soldiers, right? If that’s actually what’s going on — don’t forget, the Pentagon has been spending millions of dollars a year to promote “paid patriotism” displays at sporting events, so this could easily be part of one of those contracts. (Or rolled into an advertising contract with MLB. The possibilities are endless, really.) There’s no way to know for sure until the next time the Senate decides to do an audit.
And either way, it still leaves the deeper question of whether military tributes at ballgames are cheap ways to give lip service to honoring servicemembers without addressing issues like veterans’ health care or the morality of U.S. military policy. Regardless of who’s paying for it, the July 3 game will be first and foremost a branding opportunity — for both the army and MLB, which will get to set themselves on a national stage together, no doubt alongside apple pie and Chevrolet.
Of course, given that the contestants will be the Braves and the Marlins, it’s entirely possible that no one at all will be watching. Though given that it’s the Braves and Marlins, it’s also not like MLB is giving up much paid ticket revenue from moving the game to an army base. For that matter, you think the Braves were compensated by MLB for losing a home game? So many questions…