Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nats Ownership, The New Stadium, Parking--It Just Doesn't Go Away

After reading, along with many other Nationals fans, the terrific Washington Post Front Page story on Monday about The Lerner Family, "The Family That Plays Hardball", I was glad to see The Washington Post conduct an online chat with the authors today. This, after 2 days of great chatter on three separate Nats Blogs. Capitol Punishment led it off ( with "Pohlad Lite", then Nats Triple Play ( followed up, with my good friends at The Curly W, ( Brandon in particular, finishing it off in style.

The Blog debates online centered around whether The Lerner's are really good business people, only out for the money and not willing to invest a significant amount of cash into The Washington Nationals to make it the vibrant and championship capable franchise we would all like it to become. At the same time, the back and forth weighed heavily on whether, as Owners, The Lerners should be directly involved and working with the DC Government and other business's looking to redevelop the SW Waterfront. The three Nat blogs provided a great forum for discussion, heated at times.

Really, you should link over to their sites, read the initial posts and the subsequent comments. I found it one of the most interesting, cross blog debates of the year.
In today's post discussion ( was able to get the reporter's to bite on the Bloggers:

Alexandria, Virginia: In lite of the Washington Post front page story the other day on the Lerner's, there was a tremendous amount of chatter on 3 different Nats Blogs debating whether The Lerner's are really good business people, or, only out to make money and, in the long run, do very little to make the Nationals a Top Flight Franchise competing for the championship each year. What impression do you have on their willingness to spend and build a GREAT BASEBALL FRANCHISE. Is it in them?

Alec MacGillis: This is the question that is on the minds of many fans that we didn't really get into with this article, which was more focused on the development issue. It is going to be very interesting to see how the family actually operates the team. On the one hand, the Lerners are known for hiring quality, experienced people -- such as Stan Kasten -- and they like to be associated with top-class enterprises, such as their premier office towers and shopping centers. On the other hand, they are not known for throwing money around the way some other sports owners are. They really do seem to see the team as a long-term financial investment and not just as a way to get some attention for themselves. What that means for the team remains to be seen -- maybe they'll invest heavily in it, figuring that a winning team draws more fans, but maybe they'll be reluctant to spend a lot.

The two reporters also went on to discuss the topic in various other answers throughout the chat, at one point stating that The Lerners are only focused on the ballpark and parking, nothing else. "The Chicken must come first"--in reference to the chicken and egg debate. The Lerner Group fully believing the High Paying Customers are where the money is, not the average fan. And, they have confused many others in the District, both government and private, with their apparent uninterest to be involved with anything outside the ballpark. On more than one occasion, the Nats Owners HAVE ASKED for UPGRADE CHANGES to the original deal struck with Major League Baseball for the stadium, but do not want to pay for them. Finally, The Lerner Group finds themselves in an unusual position for them--Tenant--Not Landlord, and they may be struggling with that fact--for the first time.

Too be fair, the completion of the ballpark by March, 2008, should be their top priority, everything else can wait. The Lerner's have a signed agreement and the DC Government must deliver--rightfully so. Further development will come after the ballpark is built--just look at the Verizon Center in downtown. That area is transformed, like no one thought, in the past 10 years. But, its interesting to also read, in this online Post discussion, that the fighting over those VIP Parking spots, that will not help you or I, but is the center of this hot debate--has been further addressed by the city, by offering, to build temporary surface parking for those VIP spots in the designated lot, yet the Nats Ownership is totally against it, fearing that it will take away from the Entertainment Value of their top clients.

Finally, after just 3 months in control, there is alot of hard feelings on both sides of this debate, the online chat saying "acrimonious". That's too bad.

Too me, the parking issue for 1,250 of VIP's can wait, if, in the long run, a better idea, a better plan, could be negotiated into place in helping the redevelopment of the Near SW Waterfront. Certainty, I am not paying the bills, but a temporary parking solution for those spots, can only help, without, in my opinion, detering from the team's ability to draw HIGH PAYING Customers. Would I want to deal again with the DC City Council, no way--but, to me, this is such a SMALL THING--that is blown way out of proportion.

It was also mentioned in the Post discussion, as I had heard from others at RFK during the 2006 season, there is serious discussion of having regular fans, you and I, drive to RFK Stadium and take a shuttle bus to the New Stadium on South Capitol Street. No way for me. Not even to be considered. That alone, with Traffic returning from RFK would add an additional 20-30 minutes getting to and from the ballpark. At that point, METRO would be the ONLY WAY FOR ME.

Stan Kasten mentioned in a Fan Forum the African Queen and I attended in Mid-September that his NUMBER 1 Priority for the average fan, is working on parking for them around the new stadium. He and his staff are looking at, along with the city, identifying, as many parcels as possible, to make it happen by 2008. But, he did say, no matter what they come up with, it will, not be as convenient as RFK's Parking. Expect to walk a few blocks, at minimum. Mr. Kasten is concerned that much of that identified parking will not be available in early 2008.

Near the end of the Post chat, I was able to get in another question on the fact, some believe,due to the potential bad traffic problems around the stadium, development in the surrounding area, will not happen:

Washington, DC: Even though the River is on one side of the Ballpark Development, good business people always see opportunity that you and I don't--Those talented business folks I am just sure are chomping at the bit, looking at every nook and cranny for a money-making venture. 20 years from now, I am sure that area will be well developed and vibrant. The Verizon Center re-development happened after the, then, MCI Center opened its doors.

Dana Hedgpeth: Yes, much of the redevelopment around the Verizon Center did happen after it opened and it is likely to be that way around the new ballpark. Many developers like Monument Realty, which is the biggest owner of land there, has said it is not breaking ground on some of its major projects into the stadium construction is far along.

Finally, the correspondents did note, that with all the bad feelings between Mayor Williams, Linda Cropp and the DC City Council, maybe, just maybe, when Adrian Fenty comes on board as Mayor in January, with a new City Council--cooler heads MIGHT prevail--allowing something positive to be worked out on the Ballpark Entertainment District.

Despite Fenty's flatout not wanting to see The District pay for the Nats New Stadium, he has openly said he wants to see the area revitalized. Maybe a fresh head into the affair, even one that was so ardently against the original project, might be able to make headway in this, nothing short of, ongoing DRAMA. Yeah, I might be just dreaming.

This Stadium Debate Just Never Goes Away!!


SenatorNat said...

Screech's Best Friend has composited excellent snapshot of the current controversy, with good insights and positive import.

Lerner's love going high-end and doing it economically, according to the article: the new stadium's luxuary boxes, and servicing its patrons are the liquor license for a new restaurant, in essence, probably no different than at Verizon for Uncle Abe and at Fed Ex for Danny Boy. Parking for rich,very convenient, part of that package, and they intend to insist on it.

Perceptions will flow out of how the stadium is perceived as it first opens, and I, for one, am not turned off by the Lerners insistent nature on glaze mirrors for bathrooms in the suites, and the like. I believe that there is a natural trickle down effect for all from this exercise. I have observed Kasten watching the vendors at RFK and cannot get over this guy's scrutiny during the game of details like this. Not a bad thing at all for rich and modest fans alike...

I believe that $100 million for two levels of underground parking and to gird future development seems astronomical, no matter who foots the bill. Clearly, the Lerners view the term D.C. planning as oxymoronic. Agree with SBF that Fenty offers hope that a fresh wind may blow. Also, agree with implicit proposition that "If you build it, AND YOU BUILD IT RIGHT - they (development) will come."

Pollen built a gem; tried MJ;bit the bullet; and then hired two superb guys for the long-term - Eddie Jordan and Ernie Grunfield. Neither were flashy, nor prohibitively expensive. They are building a solid team with primarily younger, less heralded players, playing in a wonderful place. This is really the model in D.C. - not the Redskins, where the Squire hurriedly built a monstrosity (now Fed X)in Maryland (near Lanover Mall!); and then Snyder, trying too hard with too much $$$$ thrown around,and too little thought and planning given. Sometimes, less is actually more.

So - let's keep our faith in Kasten, and look for better relations with new younger saavy mayor, and the good folks at D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission, who have accomplished the miracle, thus far. All good.

Eddie Cunningham said...

On the bright spot, it looks like contruction of the actual stadium itself is on schedule:

MLB story on Nats stadium

To me, the idea of shuttle buses from RFK Stadium to Lerner Field seems the obvious temporary solution to the parking problem. Since I normally take the Metro to RFK, this won't affect me that much. My brother-in-law prefers to drive to games so when the Colorado Rockies come to town, I'll have to see if he's willing to take a shuttle bus.

One more sure that stadium diagram is correct? I thought the third base line was supposed to be pointing due north. Instead, it's pointing east...

Eddie Cunningham

Screech's Best Friend said...

Eddie: You are right on the diagram, I just downloaded it from a website at work and didn't notice the field itself was opposite of what it should be. In the new Nats Stadium, the sun should set over the 3rd base line, opposite of this diagram. Thanks. Good Catch.

By the way, that link in blue on your comment, MLB Story on the Nats Stadium, in a bad link for me on a Apple G5 computer. Not sure it it works only on a Microsoft. Thanks again for your comments. JEFF

Nat del Negro said...

Just to add to the "bad blue link" troubleshooting, didn't work for me on a G5 in either Safari (Apple's own browser) nor Explorer...

Nice post, by the way, SBF!

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