January 4, 2006
As expected, Major League Baseball followed through with their threat to hold the D.C. government accountable for failing to pass a stadium financing package by the end of the year. This begins a 15-day "countdown" period for the parties to mediate the dispute on their own, after which the matter goes to binding arbitration. In that event, it might take six months or more before a final settlement is reached. D.C. Council chairwoman Linda Cropp and D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission chairman Mark Tuohey both said they think the dispute can be resolved before it gets to that point, however. An outspoken stadium critic on the D.C. Council, Adrian Fenty, said it's just a matter of MLB ponying up more cash, but he did not say how much. Accountants in City Hall are no doubt concocting brilliant schemes to get over the financial hurdle; such proposals include selling land near the proposed stadium to developers at a premium, and having the upgrades to the Navy Yard Metrorail station be paid by the WMATA's general fund. See Washington Post. MLB President Bob DuPuy's op-ed piece yesterday left little doubt that the MLB owners have dug in their heels, refusing to concede anything more, and a fair-minded person must admit that they do have strong arguments on their side. See MLB.com. After all, a deal's a deal. I wouldn't want to be in the position of having to negotiate with the D.C. government, either.
Because of the legal fees involved, I assume this action means that MLB's compromise offer of $20 million toward stadium construction, plus a letter of credit in case of major adverse contingencies, is off the table for now. If they are smart, they will eventually make a bottom-line offer to increase that sum to $30 or $40 million, offset by suitable token concessions by D.C. Ironically, this action will cause further delays in the process of getting the new stadium built, which was supposed to be done in time for the 2008 season. My previous estimate of of three-year expected lifespan for RFK Stadium therefore stands, but it may be even longer than that... I doubt that it raises the likelihood of the Nationals being relocated above the ten percent I have estimated; given the amount of money both sides would stand to lose in such an apocalyptic scenario, even that may be too high.
Lest my recent criticisms of MLB be construed as support for the D.C. Council's dilly-dallying, let me say that it is time for certain attention-grabbing Council members to stop their vain gestures of defiance and cut a reasonable deal. Even though he wore a Nationals hat to a recent meeting, the aging Marion Barry, who takes pride in being known as a friend of hoodlums in spite of being robbed this week, simply cannot be counted on. In contrast, one of the younger, up-and-coming members (Adrian Fenty? Kwame Brown?) could gain a lot of career-boosting prestige by acting like a responsible statesman in this moment of crisis. See the table of D.C. council member votes.
The Beltway Boys adds another voice to the "keep RFK" movement, urging that the outfield seating sections (upper deck only) be removed, so that the stadium would be open, much like what they did at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati during its final two years. I added this comment:
I suggested ripping out the upper deck outfield seats at RFK to an architect who was bidding on the renovation project in late 2004. (I don't know if his firm won.) He replied that such a major change was way beyond what was being considered for the short term, but I agree it's an option that should not be dismissed. A view toward the Anacostia River might just have a breathtaking effect, especially if they go ahead with long-term plans to make that area into a nature/recreation area. I also suggested to Tom Boswell in an Wash. Post online chat that RFK be given a few extra years of baseball life, and he seemed to agree with that. You never know...
In keeping with the season (Rose Bowl kickoff time!), and as part of my never-ending endeavor to enhance the functionality of this Web site, making repeat visits here worth your while, the Football use page now includes a scrolling menu that allows you to instantly compare the 27 or so stadiums for which I have completed football version diagrams. It is located near the bottom of that page. In addition, the main table now indicates the years when the Super Bowl and various college bowl games were played in the respective stadiums. Speaking of football, I must say that this past weekend was certainly a good one for football fans in Virginia and the Washington area. The Redskins beat the Eagles, thereby making it to the playoffs for the first time in six years, while the U.Va. Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies won their respective bowl games. All three games were exciting and entertaining. And as for football stadiums in the Old Dominion, I saw the Rolling Stones in concert at Scott Stadium in October, and drove past Lane Stadium in Blacksburg last week.
Some photos of construction at the New Busch Stadium can be seen at thebirdwatch.com and some of Wrigley Field can be seen at bleedcubbieblue.com. (via David Pinto)