June 28, 2005 [LINK]

Eminent domain & new ballparks

The issue of eminent domain, which was hotly debated in the recent Kelo vs. New Haven decision by the Supreme Court, happens to be very relevant to baseball, and the sports world in general, because it has been invoked to acquire land for new stadiums in several cities around the country. That is why D.C. government officials were so pleased, since they will face fewer obstacles in clearing the land in Southeast Washington for the Nationals' new stadium. See Washington Post. The basic question is whether the project qualifies as a "public use." Highways, schools, utility lines, and parks are all widely accepted as "public uses." Not everyone is a sports fan, but virtually all cultures have some kind of public forum for mass gatherings. Since virtually all new baseball stadiums are owned by the city or some regional government entity these days, and since the stadiums are also used for a variety of public gatherings, there is little doubt that they are essentially public in function. For example, see the plaque at RFK Stadium. Nevertheless, the fact that the new ballparks were built for the primary purpose of boosting the owners' profit margins raises troubling questions, as I discuss below.

An early and bitterly controversial case of using eminent domain to facilitate stadium construction was in Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where working class Latinos were evicted from their barrio in Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodger Stadium. The bitter political struggle delayed construction by at least a year. Coincidentally, the offbeat old folk rocker Ry Cooder recently released a CD entitled "Chavez Ravine," in which he laments the lost community. One of the songs is "3rd Base, Dodger Stadium. See the review in the Washington Post. [UPDATE: There are some interesting comments on Ry Cooder and Chavez Ravine at reason.com. (via Instapundit)]

Another such case was the acquisition of land for the new stadium where the Texas Rangers began playing in 1994. See my "editorial comment" on President Bush's questionable involvement in that saga near the bottom of the Ameriquest Field page. That's what you call a political hot potato...

Nats beat Bucs

This is getting monotonous: Once again, the Nats squeaked by with a one-run margin of victory against the Pirates, 2-1. Can their excellence at small ball and situational adaptation carry them into a September pennant race? ball Jose Guillen returned to the lineup tonight despite getting hurt in Sunday's game. Nick Johnson bruised a bone in his foot while evading the catcher's tag at the plate, and he may be out for a week or more.