- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

D.C. officials are hoping that the excitement of a new baseball franchise in the city — which has been missing for 33 years — will attract fans willing to dish out bucks on tickets, hotels and food.

Even without a new stadium, the city is expected to rake in millions of dollars as a result of the Washington Nationals.

“This is another attraction for visitors that come to our city,” said Michael Stevens, president of the Washington, DC Marketing Center. “Visitors from the region — both Maryland and Virginia — will come to the game and spend money.”

Money spent at hotels and restaurants will reach an estimated $31.4 million annually, according to the Washington DC Convention and Tourism Corp. (WCTC). About $19.9 million in revenue will be generated through money spent on rooms, at hotel restaurants and hotel stores.

The tourism group estimates about 5 percent of people who attend baseball games will stay overnight in hotels. That means fans and visiting teams will need more than 84,000 rooms during the season.

Economist Anirban Basu said the effect on the city will not be that significant, particularly if visitors replace other entertainment in the city with Nationals games.

“The impact for the next couple of years will be measured by smiles and excitement, rather than new dollars in the economy,” said Mr. Basu, who is chief executive of Sage Policy Group, an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore.

But the WCTC expects visitors to extend their stays rather than eliminate an attraction to make room for a Nationals game. It gives them something to do besides monuments, memorials and museums.

“Fans are going to decide to stay one more night and we’ll get an extra room night out of it,” said William Hanbury, WCTC president and chief executive officer. “This enhances their stay.”

The Nationals’ home schedule is full of opponents near Washington. Cities such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among the key markets that generate travel to Washington.

Mr. Hanbury said the team also gives groups — particularly students — an evening option. Instead of going back to their hotel, they will go to a game and spend money there.

“This rounds out our tourism program,” Mr. Hanbury said.

In addition, new jobs, although many are part time, have been created.

More than 1,300 people have been hired as a result of the Nationals playing at RFK Stadium, including food vendors, parking and security personnel and employees for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which operates RFK Stadium. About 78 percent of those jobs were filled by District residents.

The District also will begin recruiting workers to build the new stadium, expected to be ready for the 2008 season.

The new stadium will be on the Anacostia waterfront, an area in Southeast that has been neglected by developers and investors.

Officials agree the biggest effect on the city will come with the new stadium and the surrounding development that will follow.

“It will create a new sector of the economy — an economy that will exist because the Nationals are there,” Mr. Basu said.

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