Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marla Lerner Tanenbaum & The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation

No stranger to Nats320, Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, Principal Owner and Chair of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation spoke at Nationals Park in The Media Room for Blogger Day 2 this past Sunday. Her goal, to help spread the word about The Dream Foundation's Three Cornerstone Projects. All of which have been covered EXTENSIVELY right here on Nats320.

With that here we go with Marla Lerner Tanenbaum and her thoughts on the continuing efforts of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation:

“We have three cornerstone programs. Just by being in the park you are probably familiar with some of them. The one we get most asked about is probably the Youth Baseball Academy. Our plans are to build a baseball academy in Ward 7 in Ft. Dupont Park in conjunction with the city—who are our partners, financially and just about every way you can imagine.”

“The second is a Diabetes Care Complex at The Children’s National Medical Center. It is going to be The Nationals Diabetes Care Complex. And we have a certain financial number we must meet before we start building, but we expect to have a ground breaking in 2010. And the third initiative we call “The Neighborhood Initiative”—which consists of non-profits and other organizations in the area of the ballpark. The neighborhood of the ballpark we support with small grants. Sometimes they consist of “sweat equity” (NatsTown Green Up), but mostly with financial commitments. And that is a big umbrella for a lot of the work we do.”

“So, those are our three focuses right now. We are open to entertaining another one in the future, but my first goal when we started was to create these three initiatives so that we can have a focus and so the people can know what we are all about. These cover what The Nationals, as an organization, are concerned with. The community, of course; education; and recreation—so, that is our focus.”

Question: With the recession lasting so long and so deep, do you find that more people are looking to your foundation to make up the gap where non-profits used to fill in?

“We have definitely seen that, especially under the Neighborhood Initiatives. It is tough because we feel for a lot of these organizations. We have probably granted more gifts this year with Neighborhood Initiatives in the last 12 months, than we probably had combined over the previous two years. I am talking about just since we became owners because there is a lot of need out there. We recognize that. And we also started our program with “Rebuilding Together”; we are going to do a house per year with “Rebuilding Together”. There are just so many opportunities to help that the difficulty is to narrow it down. So, what we have tried to do is focus on what our missions is and really focus on the children’s aspect of everything—that helps a lot because we really can’t go outside too much of what our mission really is. Or else, we would just become so diffused it really would not mean anything.”

Question: Once the physical completion on The Baseball Academy is finished, are The Nationals going to help staff the program or will a different foundation be involved with that aspect of it? Or, will it be more of the city’s responsibility?

“Love the premise of the question. Once it is built, that is when The Nationals will really come into play, mostly. First of all, we have a 10-year commitment to fund it for $250,000 a year. So, we are going to be involved because if we are going to put our money there, we are going to make sure it is put to good use. As you can tell from our organization, we are hands on. And I have every intention of being involved. We are creating a non-profit to run this baseball academy. So, it will neither be the city nor The Nationals that will have responsibility. But, we plan on being on the board and having a big say over there on how it goes.”

“So many times we get a new player and I hear through the Community Relations Department and The Foundation this player really likes to work with kids. He would really like to be involved. I am dying for it (The Baseball Academy) to be open because these players really want to have that. It is a great opportunity for them. So, we will be involved.”

“(SBF) and I have talked a lot about The Baseball Academy and it’s difficult. I really want to put a little bit of that out there. We are really pushing The Powers That Be to help us get to the finish line with this. It’s difficult while you are trying to maintain a good relationship with The National Park Service. But at the same time, we are very frustrated that we are stuck over there by, pretty much, one bureaucrat, who has a lot of power and he is putting a lot of restraints on the city. And he is making it very difficult for this to get done. I am not afraid to put that out there. I really want to put a lot of pressure on the Park Service because there is really no reason for the city—(understand) they are party to this document, we (The Nationals) are not. So, I can’t really go up there and have a hissy fit because I am not on the dotted line. But, I want to push as much as I can. If I am given the opportunity, I just want to say The Nationals—from the moment I took on this position—the moment we became owners—we have been trying to push this. And I am not naive and I know this guy, the Park Service, are doing their jobs to protect Federal Lands—that are under the Park Service’s authority. But, this is Ward 7; it is not Yellowstone (National Park). We are going to put our money there and create something in a place where there is nothing. A beautiful Baseball Academy that is going to be used by the youth of this city. So, it is a shame that it is being stuck in this purgatory and I am trying to nudge just as much as I can to get some attention to this problem.”

Question: Tell me if I am wrong, but this is in the agreement to bring Major League Baseball to Washington, D.C. (Correct—Marla). So this is not a new initiative. This is one of the foundations in which The Nationals were brought here in 2004/2005?

“Yes, and so the city is 100% behind it. The city was signatory to that lease agreement. They wanted this, they asked for it. Unfortunately, The Park Service in the land that was identified by the city is under Federal control. So, The Park Service has to agree with this transfer of land and they have put a lot of restrictions on it.”

Follow up: Will there come a time when your foundation says enough? We are going to pull out?

“Yeah, I would have to say that would be the case because the intent here is to build a Baseball Academy. But in this agreement it clearly states the city will provide the land. So, it is not up to us to go out and buy a parcel of land. We have to respond to the city with this. I am hopeful. We are making some progress. We are working at it from all angles.”

That concluded Marla Lerner Tanenbaum's efforts to push forward and enlighten bloggers of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation's Goals.

No comments: