The Washington Times - July 11, 2008, 10:52AM

So the Nats are more than halfway through the season and the team’s owners have yet to make their first rent payment.

David Nakamura and Daniel LeDuc over at the Post report that the team is witholding the $3.5 million payment arguing that the stadium was not “substantially complete” by March 1. Additionally, the team is still asking for $100,000 per day in damages.

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This all comes down how the language of the stadium lease is interpreted. The Lerner family and the city have not been in agreement on several aspects of the lease since the get-go. Earlier this year the team took the city to arbitration on a number of issues relating to costs of construction at the ballpark. The city prevailed in that case, but now must show that the stadium was in compliance with the lease when it opened for business on March 29.

On the face of things, it would seem silly to argue that a stadium was not complete — the stadium opened on time and has hosted hundreds of thousands of fans. But as we reported about a month into the season, there was whopping number of so-called “punch list” items that needed to be addressed after Opening Day, with some given labels of “high priority” and “top priority.” The main concern of the Lerners was that the team offices were not complete, but there were a number of other small-to-medium issues.

In its last report on the ballpark construction this past Wednesday, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission said it had completed 25,572 of the 28,621 punchlist items by the end of June. The commission said 98 percent of the items would be done by the end of July, with a few extending into the fall.

There were a number of “priority” items on the punch list that were addressed in June, though not all were resolved.

        -The commission installed TVs in areas where there are seats with obstructed views. They must still must install 8 TVs but are waiting for the fabrication of special weather-proof enclosures to protect them.    

        -The commission said 99% of leaks have been fixed, with 1% left to do.

        -The team and commission still disagree on whether TVs should be installed near the north entrance to the ballpark.

        -The team was unhappy with the surveillance camera used to monitor the field. The construction team plans to retrofit the camera with a new lens. The cost of the change, valued at $87,000 will be split three ways among the team, commission and construction companies.

        -The team complained of cracks in the pedestrian ramps. A sealer solution has been approved, but the installation may have to wait until the end of the season.

        -There were complaints of a lack of hot water in the suites. The commission retrofitted the the suites with small hot water heaters.

     

        The commission issued a statement this morning, saying, “The ballpark was completed on time and in a manner that everyone in the District can be proud. We continue to work closely with the Nationals as we close out the project.”

    In an appearance on WTOP with Mark Plotkin this morning, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty downplayed the rift between the city and the Lerners.

    “I think it’ll all be worked out in a timely fashion,” he said. “I’m not disappointed, disturbed or surprised. I’m the mayor of the District of Columbia and I’ve watched a lot of big development deals happen. This is the biggest one in the city and I think to be honest with you if all the t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted this soon after it being complete, I think we’d be living in some fantasy world. Every development project has issues that remain unresolved this far in.

    “I think the Lerners are very sincere in what they believe are their rights and obligations, and we’ll come to an agreement as soon as humanly possible.”

    Asked by reporter Mark Seagraves if he believed the city has met the requirements of the lease, Fenty said “I believe there are some issues right now where there is some disagreement between all parties involved, and I believe they will be worked out in a timely manner.”

    Seagraves then asked Fenty if he believes the Lerners are good corporate citizens, to which Fenty replied, “Absolutely.”