The Washington Nationals have moved into a new state-of-the-art stadium that was funded with $611 million in public subsidy, but halfway through the season, the club has yet to make their $3.5 million rent payment to the District, and in fact, is asking for damages of $100,000 a day saying that Nationals Park is still “incomplete”.
The District said it planned on hiring lawyers that would deal with a protracted arbitration process.
As reported by the Washington Post, the issue centers on the definition of “completed”:
The fight is the latest in a series of disputes that has led to increasing ill will as the city and team seek to reap dividends from the investments they made to bring baseball to Washington. The District paid more than $611 million in public money to build the stadium complex along the Anacostia River, while the family of Bethesda-based developer Theodore N. Lerner spent more than $450 million to buy the franchise from Major League Baseball.
Although each side needs the other to make the stadium a success, neither appears willing to back down. The fight centers on whether the ballpark was "substantially complete" by March 1, when the city, which oversaw the construction, was contractually obligated to hand the keys to the Lerners.
District officials said the city secured a certificate of occupancy, as well as an additional letter from the architects, that declared the building fit for business before the season began. Since March 29, when the Nationals faced the Baltimore Orioles in an exhibition, the team has played 48 regular-season games at the ballpark, selling an average of 29,000 tickets a game.
DC officials have a certificate of occupancy from HOK Sport, the chief architect on the project, and additional letters from them as well stating that the facility was fit for business before the Nationals played an exhibition with the Orioles in late March.
Clark/Hunt/Smoot, the venture that constructed the ballpark declared that revenue-making aspects of the ballpark were delivered on time. A team of 100 construction workers are still finishing a “punch list” of items at the ballpark on off-days.
To add to the situation, the timing of payments on several million dollars in taxes from ticket sales is also in dispute, according to the report.
If all this seems galling, ownership sees it as a matter of adhering to the ballpark agreement. Of course, this is the same ownership that claimed uniforms for the players should be picked up by the District, not the team. That case went to arbitration where it was ruled that ownership, not the city, should pay for them.
Ted Lerner, the principle owner of the Nationals is ranked as the 165th most wealthy person in the US with a net worth of $2.5 billion.