CFO: D.C. ‘ballpark fee’ not going to increase

In the District, officials are hoping the surging Nats will ease their debt burden. The team grabbed the national spotlight this year through sterling pitching and its range of clubhouse personalities, picking up high-profile fans like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and testing the hometown loyalties of transient D.C. residents along the way. The controversy over whether to shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the cusp of the playoffs only added to the intrigue.

Nationals Park saw its highest attendance in 2012, with an average of 30,010 attendees per game exceeding the average of 29,025 in 2008 — the inaugural season at the ballpark.

While the ballpark fee is not directly tied to how well the Nats perform on the field, an influx of sales tax revenue can be linked to the team’s expanding fan base. Ticket sales and merchandise purchases at the ballpark are subject to a 10.25 percent sales tax — 6 percent sales tax plus a 4.25 percent specialized tax — and concessions are taxed at 10 percent, team officials said.

Estimates from midway through this year indicated the team was on track to exceed the previous year’s sales tax revenue, and that was before the team clinched the National League East title and played three well-attended playoff games at the ballpark in Southeast.

Final sales tax figures will not be released until February as part of the city’s comprehensive annual financial report, Mr. Umansky said. But with new fans flooding into the ballpark, conventional wisdom dictates this past season’s revenue from tickets, beers, team tchotchkes and other purchases will exceed the previous year’s haul.

On paper, the Nationals could come back even stronger for the 2013 season. The franchise recently signed a bona fide center fielder, Denard Span, from the Minnesota Twins and inked a deal with right-handed pitcher Dan Haren to solidify its prized starting rotation.

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