SBD/Issue 6/Facilities & Venues

Nationals Park Sales Tax Figures Disappoint, Team Witholds Rent

Nationals Park Sales Tax Figures Pacing
Well Below DC Officials' Projections
Nationals Park is on pace to generate about $13.5M in sales taxes for the DC government, "well below the $16.1[M] city officials had projected," according to David Nakamura of the WASHINGTON POST. Meanwhile, Nationals Owners the Lerner family "still have not paid" $3.5M in Nationals Park rent that was due in the spring, "contending that the ballpark is not 'substantially complete.'" DC financial officers said that they "have enough money to cover the debt service -- in part because a special tax on city businesses is bringing in more money than anticipated." But the "fight over the rent appears headed toward binding arbitration." Some city leaders said that the dispute with the Lerners "might not be resolved until after a second rent payment is due from the team early next year, which could begin to hamper the debt service schedule." DC Council Chair Vincent Gray: "The stadium for purposes of use as a ballpark obviously was complete. It's been universally well received as a venue, which is just first-class. We did what we were supposed to do, so to be in this kind of debate is frankly shocking." Business leaders also have "expressed frustration at the lack of progress." DC Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Lang said that "the faster the city can pay off the debt with ballpark tax revenue and rent money, the faster the businesses can be relieved of the special tax." But sources said that in negotiations with the DC Sports & Entertainment Commission, Lerner reps have "cited problems with the ballpark, including the quality of the sound system and the lighting on the scoreboard." DC Sports & Entertainment Commission Chair Matthew Cutts: "This was not a one-year deal. This is a deal that is going to help that portion of the city for many years to come. I would not say you can judge the success based on one year's performance" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/19).

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