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April 13, 2009
Nats opening day marked by vacant lots
The Washington Nationals held their home opener today, and while most of the attention was directed to the sudden death of Harry Kalas, it was also the start of the second season for Nationals Park, the $611 million stadium that was built mostly with public money. Last year saw disappointing attendance, and things aren't starting off that much better this year, as the Washington Post notes:
Baseball stadium backers promised a lively entertainment district when the D.C. government poured nearly $700 million into building Nationals Park: a hub of bustling shops, restaurants, hotels, condos and office towers to draw patrons year-round.
But as the Nationals take the field for their second season at the ballpark, there won't be much entertainment outside. ... Fans approaching the ballpark along Half Street will pass an empty office building and a 35-foot-deep hole in the ground owned by Monument Realty, which has put plans on hold for shops, residences and a hotel. One block north, another office building, built by Nationals owner Theodore N. Lerner, sits vacant in search of a tenant.
The Post blames the lousy economy; the Washington City Paper counters that the "stadium district" was doomed from the start. Either way, it has D.C. being made fun of by other cities with failed ballpark villages.
And speaking of being made fun of, the libertarian magazine Reason has a long analysis of the stadium's overblown economic impact claims, highlighted by this from Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher on last year's opening day:
Twelve-year-old Brennan Jones, a Little League catcher from Falls Church, served up this strike from Econ 101: "The District's going to make so much money. We're paying for this place every time we come." Brennan expects to come very often; during Nats batting practice last night, he got pitcher Luis Ayala to sign his Nationals rally monkey. The kid is set, probably for life.
Responds Reason's Nick Gillespie:
Only a real Ty Cobb-type sonuvabitch would put a price tag on a kid getting his rally monkey signed. Hell, the stadium practically paid for itself in that one act. Especially when the kid channels Warren Buffet and declares the stadium a no-lose proposition. Who can argue with that?