Nats Park: an increasingly bad deal for D.C. taxpayers

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I’ve long been opposed to the use of public monies to finance Major
League ballparks. For one thing, these teams are owned by billionaires,
almost all of the revenues a park brings goes right back to the team,
not the city, and I don’t think local government should be in the
business of giving such handouts to billionaires. For another thing, I
don’t know too many cities who have been so flush with cash in the past
several decades that they couldn’t have used the hundreds of millions
they’re spending on the ballpark for something more important. Finally,
even if you’re all for a city giving millions it doesn’t have to
billionaires, the details of these ballpark deals are always shady, and
the true cost to the taxpayers only becomes evident years after all of
the initial hoopla and rosy projections.

In light of all of that, this news regarding Nationals Park in Washington doesn’t surprise me in the least:

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is planning to divert millions of dollars from
the ballpark tax to reduce the city’s deficit. The Ballpark Revenue
Fund is intended to pay down the debt on Nationals Park. But Fenty’s
revised 2010 budget shifts $50 million from it to the general fund over
the next four years.

And it’s not as if the ballpark debt is going to go away. It’s now
simply going to cost a strapped city even more to service, thereby
raising the ultimate price of the Lerner family’s new toy box/cash
machine even higher than was projected when the place was built.

I love baseball. For the most part I love the new ballparks. There
is no escaping the fact, however, that these ballparks represent
horrible, horrible deals for tax payers.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.

Donald Trump may throw out the first pitch at the Nationals opener

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It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.