The Washington, D.C. Council is considering raising in-stadium taxes by 5 percent on items such as concessions, tickets, and parking in an effort to close the gap on what is reportedly a shortfall in revenues used to pay down the stadium debt on Nationals Park.
The $611 million ballpark, almost entirely funded with public dollars, uses a variety of taxes tied directly to the ballpark. With that, attendance at the ballpark impacts the level of tax revenues garnered at any given time. The Nationals are averaging 29,700 over 50 games at Nationals Park going into the second half of the season. That ranks the Nats 16th in attendance and well below what was predicted with the new ballpark opening just this season.
Add in the fact that ownership of the Nationals and the District are mired in an acrimonious relationship already. The Nationals are withholding their $3.5 million rent obligation stating that the ballpark is not fully completed.
The District has countered that all revenue-making aspects of the ballpark were delivered well in advance by the construction firms building the facility. As reported by the Examiner, the proposed tax increase involves both the low attendance and the Nationals withholding rent:
Legislation introduced Tuesday by at-large D.C. Councilman David Catania, and co-sponsored by seven of his colleagues, would boost the gross sales tax charged on Nationals tickets, concessions, merchandise and parking to 15 percent. The District currently charges 10 percent — the city’s existing 5.75 percent sales tax plus an extra 4.25 percent.
If approved, the cost of a $5 bag of french fries would increase by 33 cents.
D.C. is unlikely to collect the $42 million it needs this year to pay the debt service, contribute to a capital reserve fund and maintain its property damage insurance, Catania claimed. The fund, the council member said, could fall $35,000 to $3.5 million short.
It should be noted that Councilman Catania was a staunch opponent of the public funding of Nationals Park. His shortfall figures are being countered by the District’s CFO, Natwar Gandhi. Gandhi claims that the 15 percent increase would be “excessive” by federal law and that the debt service would be reached in full and on time.
How did Catania react to the CFO’s claims? “Absurd,” Catania responded.