If you listen to the Washington D.C. City Council, the Nationals belong to their district and only their district. District officials are “outraged” that the team plans to have major events in Maryland. The Nationals’ charitable arm is hosting its black-tie “Dream Gala” and its FanFest in Maryland. And if you listen to D.C.’s leaders, building the team a $611 million stadium complex should at least, you know, get them some events.
"I guess we're like Charlie Brown or Rodney Dangerfield. We can't get respect," council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said yesterday. "This is just an outrage."Council member Jim Graham? He voted against the baseball deal. He wasn’t thrilled either, calling it “offensive.”
"That's like taking a stick and poking your eye. What a level of ingratitude. The timing is worse than ever. We're opening the $611 million stadium and . . . to have the annual banquet in Prince George's County, that's staggering," he said. "I would hope that we could work this out."District officials may be upset, but it’s misguided. The foundation event is being held at that hotel because it came free of charge, saving about $250,000 that can now go directly to the foundation (a charity, remember?). The team also tried to hold its FanFest in D.C. proper, but the hotels and convention center could not accommodate them on their preferred date.
These officials squawking away are missing the point. While they may be the Washington Nationals by name, they are by necessity a regional team. Do you think they could survive if only D.C. residents attended games? Nope. In fact, by going to the suburbs, the team is actually helping the district. Should the team attract fans from Maryland and Virginia, it would result in their coming to D.C. and spending money there. Parking, restaurants and concessions would all be poured into D.C. by non-residents that wouldn’t be occurring otherwise. Do they want that to stop?
I get that D.C.’s civic leaders want to be seen as defending their district, but their hysterics are really misplaced. They should encourage the team to host events everywhere, and invite their neighbors to come to games. They’ll come and leave their dollars behind. And before long, the city will have recouped their investment in the stadium.