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Thursday, February 29, 2024

D.C. Proposes Funds for Nats Park Amid Wizards and Capitals Uncertainty

  • District looks to earmark funds to upgrade the publicly owned ballpark.
  • New bill shows a more proactive stance following recent issues involving Capital One Arena.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington, D.C., is on track to pay off the construction bonds on the publicly owned Nationals Park as early as 2027, which would be nine years ahead of schedule. Now, the city is looking to tap into many of the same stadium-related revenue streams to renovate the 16-year-old ballpark.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson introduced a bill on Tuesday that would create the Ballpark Maintenance Fund, which would establish a dedicated revenue stream to pay for stadium upgrades and repairs. The new fund would be supported by existing taxes that also pay for the construction bonds such as a sales tax on purchases at the ballpark, as well as rent paid by the Washington Nationals.

“We made a commitment to the team [that] we would build the stadium and we would maintain it, and we just don’t need these stories about deferred maintenance and failing scoreboards,” Mendelson told The Washington Post. “So let’s provide a certain path that we’re going to maintain our facility.”

The developing effort carries a thematic similarity to the situation surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, another publicly owned facility that was paid off years early and is now the subject of a new request for public funds.

Proactive Stance

The D.C. effort also shows a much more proactive strategy to get in front of a local sports facility-related situation, compared to what is now happening with Ted Leonsis and his Monumental Sports and Entertainment. The D.C. Council has offered Leonsis $500 million in public funds to upgrade Capital One Arena, but that overture has arrived on the heels of his announced intent to build a $2 billion project in Alexandria, Va., with a new arena and mixed-use development for the Washington Wizards and Capitals.

Dedicated funding for Nationals Park improvements could also help jumpstart the lagging process by the Lerner family to sell all or part of the Nationals. That process also received a boost with the recent settlement involving a local media rights term and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, and Leonsis is seen as the likely buyer of the Nationals.

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