Field of Schemes
sports stadium news and analysis


This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.

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?


The idea that people want to spend December in an area that has a ballpark is silly, there needs to be a reason why you should want to spend time and money doing so. This is what you will see at Citi Field: Even though the park is spectactular, no one wants to visit a toxic waste dump after games (Let alone in December). Unless and until they build up a community around the ballpark (And it will take a decade to do that (Cleaning up the environment, throwing out junkyards, and building housing, retail, parks etc)). Oddly enough, the Yankee Stadium area has more of a potential for success, because there are already assets there needed to accomplish this, and have people visit or live in the the area after the season (Court, new train station, fixed up roads, new housing etc). This will be more likely once the parks are finished, and the Gateway Center opens. But even there, we are talking five years down the line.
Washington was a poorly executed plan. But, that will look like a success, compared to what will happen with Marlins Ballpark in Miami (That may end up being the Titanic of sports stadiums (Sort of like the Carnival Center For The Performing Arts in Miami)).

Posted by Januz on April 14, 2009 07:40 AM

a taj mahal could be built at willets point, schemes by politicians won't make that area viable

Posted by Paul W. on April 14, 2009 07:57 PM

I said it once and I'll say it again. Bud Selig is a greedy idiot along with politicians and this economic tsunami hit them like a tidal wave. The attendance all over MLB will be horrid and I can't be happier. Bart Giamatti where are you now?

Posted by JP on April 14, 2009 09:09 PM

Latest News Items