Stadium Lease Discussions Could Get Ugly Tuesday
[November 15th] -- A year ago, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams announced that "Baseball is back in Washington!." A few weeks later, the city council began to poke a stick in the eye of Major League Baseball, and baseball in D.C. almost ended before it began.
That fight may seem like a lovefest compared to what is about to happen. City officials will ask major league baseball Tuesday for an additional $20 million dollars as well as a line of credit for another $24 million. Gee, that's going to go over well.
Baseball has repeatedly said that they are unwilling to become financially involved with the new stadium. A deal is a deal. They supplied the team, Washington supplies the stadium.
Since that agreement, however, MLB officials have continued to up the ante, asking for stadium upgrades at almost every level of discussions. The original agreement called for 1200 VIP parking spaces to be used by baseball officials and their friends. Now, baseball is demanding how those spaces should be built. They want them "near or adjacent" to the ball park. They are strongly hinting those spaces should be built underground. To build the parking lot the way that Bud wants will cost an additional $20 million dollars. It makes perfect sense that the cost be passed on to Major League Baseball. "We'll provide parking spaces, but if baseball wants them to be fancy, then they have to pay," said one city official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The city's position is the stadium will cost $535 million, and anything beyond that is contributed by the owner and/or baseball, or it just doesn't get done," D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said.
The $24 million line of credit sought by the city is what officials call "usual and customary." Wall Street types can get a little jittery in this post 9/11 world about revenue flows coming to a sudden stop. The line of credit simply assures that interest payments will be met in case of a terrorist attack, player strike or similar catastrophe. Agreements like this are found throughout the sporting world. They make investors happy. Happy investors mean lower interest rates. Lower interest rates mean a smaller repayment total. It's a win-win.
Major League Baseball, however, is not about "win-win." Rather, baseball is only concerned with dominating and destroying. By definition, a contract is an agreement where both parties receive something of value. Baseball, however, sees a contract as something that leaves the other side forever in a bent-over position.
Choosing a side in the MLB - D.C. City Council fight is kind of like picking a favorite during World War II when Adolph Hitler attacked Joseph Stalin. Neither side exactly tugs at the heart strings. That said, the city council is just stupid, while major league baseball is both stupid and conniving. Neither side deserves to win. In this one instance, when the D.C. City council wins, so do the fans. Nationals' fans shouldn't have to cover the $20 million dollar parking lot upgrade for Bud's drinking buddies. Nationals' fans shouldn't have to pay higher ticket prices to cover the increased interest rates because baseball isn't willing to spend three cents to cover the cost of a sheet of computer paper.
Sadly, this is all far from over. Baseball will probably threaten to move the team somewhere else if they don't get what they want from the city [baseball still owning the team certainly does have its advantages as the two sides argue, doesn't it?]. With baseball, its all about getting the most from others while giving up the least. Give the Expos owners $190 million for the team in 2002 and sell it for $450 million three years later. That's win-win? Bud Selig believes that cities and fans "owe" him for the honor of rooting for his teams. It looks like not having management in place in time for the free agent signing period will be the least of the Nationals worries this fall.
MEMO TO NATIONALS' FANS: Stand on wood floors. Otherwise, Bud Selig will pull the rug out from under you faster than he can charge your credit card.
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