Munsey on Ballparks

Private investors?

by Paul Munsey (archive)

January 22, 2005

When I read that the city of Washington was going to seek private funding plans for the proposed ballpark near the Anacostia River, I thought "who are they kidding?" Well, apparently, eight investors. That's how many plans were submitted by the January 18th deadline.

If you have been keeping up with the continuing saga, you know that the mayor promised the moon, the skies and a brand new, shiny ballpark to Major League Baseball if they would move the Expos to Washington, DC. The chairman of the city council, Linda Cropp, convinced a majority of the council to demand private financing for part of the ballpark. When it looked like MLB was going to walk away from the deal because of the city's demands, the council scrambled to scale back their demands to a "request" for private financing plans.

Newspaper reports have expressed surprise at how few private financing plans were submitted. I'm surprised they received any! Private investors? Really? How would they profit?

Major League Baseball intends to get top dollar for the only franchise in which every team owner has a stake. That is why they insisted on the city picking up the entire tab on a new ballpark. It is also why just about every way of making money off the place belongs to the team.

Certainly, there must be an angle to this besides the obvious. After all, the city charged a $10,000 fee to those who submitted plans. Perhaps this is a way for developers to express their "interest" in the coming redevelopment of the riverfront. The money to be spent on Anacostia Waterfront Corp., the agency responsible for the redevelopment of the riverfront, is approximately $8 billion over twenty years. That will dwarf anything spent on the proposed Nationals ballpark. Compared to that, ten grand is a drop in the bucket.

It may be that the bidders expect the private financing contract to go cheap. Presumably, these private investors would be bidding on who gets to manage the stadium. If it goes that way, then the winner of that process would get to hold events at the ballpark when the Nationals aren't in town. Of course, that would mean less money for the city, which is already in the stadium leasing business at RFK Stadium. It's hard to imagine how the city comes out ahead on this.

It is obvious that city leaders in Washington will do just about anything to get their coveted baseball team. I guess when your city is essentially the capital of the world, it can skew your perception of what is reasonable. But the fact is that Washington is about to give $500 million to MLB.

It just seems to me that Washington has a lot more problems that need attention than your average city, and they're dedicating an above average amount of resources to secure a professional sports franchise. I know that every city is faced with these kinds of decisions, but Washington is the murder capital of the country. Don't you think they should get that problem under control first?


Have you ever wondered how they make those patterns on baseball fields? Usually, you will see some sort of checkered pattern, but groundskeepers are getting more and more creative.

When they mow the grass, the groundskeeper will drag a roller behind the mower. The grass reflects light differently, depending on which way it is pressed down. So, in one of those checkered patterns, the darker grass is all pressed toward the south, while the lighter grass is pressed toward the north. I might have this backwards, but you get the idea.

During the American League playoffs and World Series last year, many people wrote to me asking what that strange shape was in the infield of Fenway Park. It was a little difficult to get a good clear view on television, and was only obvious when they showed an overhead shot. For those of you who don't know, those were a pair of "sox," like in the Red Sox logo.

David R. Mellor, the head groundskeeper at Fenway Park, has a book out called "Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports." In it, Mr. Mellor shares many of his mowing techniques, and discusses the basics of turfgrass management, including soil testing and fertilization.

Paul Munsey is the editor of

Help us provide a better web site by completing our feedback form.

Washington Nationals tickets and Boston Red Sox tickets provided by Ticket Triangle.

Munsey on Ballparks © 2005 by Paul Munsey.

BALLPARKS © 1996-2014 by Munsey & Suppes.