- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Rumors and emotions aside, Washington, D.C. deserves to get a relocated baseball franchise. All the noise about the Baltimore Orioles suffering substantially if Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia get a team dwindles in importance when compared to the struggles of Montreal, Tampa Bay and Miami. Sure Orioles owner Peter Angelos has said that the recent report sponsored by the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority (VBSA) is out of line with his clubs research, in that it indicates only 13 percent of Orioles fans are from the D.C. metro area whereas the Orioles maintain the number is roughly 25 percent. But in all realistic interpretations, baseball needs to look at Washington as the best way to ensure money will be made for the revenue-sharing owners, not lost as it is in some cities now.

A downtown ballpark is a certain draw for any one of the three franchises, which are in dire need of seeing a color different than red. The Washington metro area is the seventh largest market in the nation and has the most disposable income of any market, including the ones already hosting multiple teams. Luxury boxes and club seats would be a certain sell. Wouldn´t there be plenty of businesses and lobbyist groups eager to snap up those boxes? The Orioles have around 60 groups on the waiting list for luxury boxes, so this is not something Baltimore will have reason to cry over if Washington is awarded a franchise.

The recent study conducted by three separate firms from New York to Chicago for the VBSA concluded that a ball park in the downtown area would pull around 1,000 fans from every Orioles game. This is a far cry from crippling a franchise which entertains around 40,000 fans a game, especially considering the fact Montreal struggles to stay above 5,000 per night and Tampa Bay around 10,000.

The beef Baltimore has with the Washington metro area is unsubstantiated. But the competition remains between the Washington pushers and the Northern Virginia supporters. Washington is the central point for commerce and would also mean easy access for fans. Still, a new park may not be as simple as one-two-three strikes. With all the money gleaned from a franchise, a new stadium should not be funded by the public. Yes, a new baseball team in the area would serve the public´s interest, but the price should simply be the cost of tickets and other related revenue. The deep pockets of the owners should be able to supply money for construction.

The near 30-year absence of baseball in Washington is not right. With the struggles engulfing so many clubs and the focus being on the lack of support, Washington would be a solution any owner would drool over. Now, if only Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig could grasp this idea.


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