MLB Approves Stadium Lease For The Nationals

By Carla Peay
Updated: March 13, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is a term in sports known as “winning ugly”. It could describe a baseball team guilty of sloppy base running and a myriad of errors. It could describe an NBA contest with a score in the 70’s, lots of fouls, and a bunch of free throws masquerading as bricks at the foul line.

It could be a five interception, no touchdown football game that ends in a score of 9-6. But as any coach would tell you, a W is a W. Here in Washington D.C. make that a curly W.

The Washington Nationals finally have a stadium lease agreement that has been approved by the Mayor, the D.C. City Council, and Major League Baseball and it’s a victory for the team and the city that certainly has to be one of the ugliest wins ever witnessed.

After an off-season of battling politicians, missed deadlines, mediations, arbitrations, negotiations, and 11th hour middle of the night vote changing, a deal has been reached to build a new baseball stadium along the Anacostia waterfront for the Washington Nationals. The stadium cost has been capped at $611 million, and groundbreaking is scheduled for sometime next month. The new stadium is optimistically scheduled to be ready for the start of the 2008 season.

“We’re very, very excited and very, very thankful”, said D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams at his weekly press conference about the deal that allows the city to move forward with the building of the new stadium.

Williams, who is not running for re-election, no doubt sees this deal as one of the defining moments of his administration. Within the next week, Williams will unveil the plans for the new stadium, whose design he describes as “iconic”. The stadium will seat 41,000, and the upper decks will have a view of the Capitol.

“The new stadium will change the skyline of our city and become an icon for our city just like our other monuments”, Williams said. The Mayor has long touted the economic benefits of the stadium project, calling it a wealth creation benefit for the city, and one that will bring thousands of jobs to district residents.

The stadium will be built by Clark/Hunt/Smoot Construction, the same firm which built the D.C. Convention Center, as well as eleven of the past sixteen new major league ballparks around the league.

The new stadium is slated to be the centerpiece of the Anacostia waterfront, around which other businesses will develop. Included in the plans are improvements to the Navy Yard metro station, which must be expanded to accommodate the incoming traffic flow.

With the lease question resolved, the other major piece of business for the team will be selecting a new owner, hopefully before opening day. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to announce the new owner sometime after the conclusion of the World Baseball Classic.

There are eight groups bidding for the right to buy the team, which will sell for approximately $450 million, but there are really only three contenders at this point. They are the two local groups, one led by Fred Malek, one led by Ted Lerner, and Indianapolis media mogul Jeffrey Smulyan.

While the team prepares for the season during its spring training games in sunny Viera, Florida and with general manager Jim Bowden’s contract extended thought the 2006 season, the team can finally begin to focus on baseball matters.

Like where newly acquired Alfonso Soriano will play, who will become the new leadoff hitter, the health of Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro, and whether the Nats have enough live arms to fill a five-man rotation.

Feels like Spring.