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What would have happened to Nationals Park?

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Baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig has given the Oakland Athletics permission to talk about a new ballpark with other communities if elected officials in Fremont, a suburb near Oakland, won’t give the okay for a new ballpark there.

“I have decided that in the event you are not able to promptly assure the implementation of the desired ballpark in Fremont, you may begin to discuss a ballpark with other communities,” Cadillac Bud wrote.

Where? The dark side of the moon? The rings of Saturn?

Come on, what community in its right mind, given the state of the economy and the anger of the electorate, is going to welcome and approve a new baseball stadium — even one that will be built primarily through private funding? There is no place on this planet that the A’s can use as leverage.

The dispute in Oakland has to make you consider what would have happened if the whole Nationals Park funding battle in the District would have come along several years later, in this climate. Baseball was fortunate to get the deal done when it did, or else the Washington Nationals would be stuck playing in RFK Stadium for years to come. There would be no Northern Virginia or anywhere else to turn to for a new ballpark. Look at the fight going on in New York with the Yankees over the new Yankee Stadium. A state legislator there has challenged team president Randy Levine to a fist fight over the Yankees request for another $259 million in tax-exempt bonds and $111 million in taxable bonds on top of $940 million in tax-exempt bonds and $25 million in taxable bonds already approved for the $1.5 billion ballpark. You can understand why New York state officials are unhappy.

This isn’t even the worst Yankee Stadium boondoggle. In the early 1970s, the city had taken over ownership of Yankee Stadium and agreed to renovate the House that Ruth Built. It was closed from 1974 to 1975, and those costs wound up being $160 million, which the city was on the hook for. The state eventually took over that debt, and I believe they may be still paying on it. More than 15 years later, they built Camden Yards in Baltimore for $110 million.

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