- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2006

The District held a job fair yesterday to give residents access to more than 1,000 openings at RFK Memorial Stadium, helping them to take advantage of opportunities generated by professional baseball’s return to the city.

The Second Season Job Fair, which took place at the D.C. Armory, was the last of eight the city held this month. The event connected hundreds of job seekers with stadium employers trying to fill such seasonal positions as ushers, ticket takers and security guards.

“Most are temporary jobs, but they’re ways for the District residents to work, earn a decent living and progress through the work force,” said Gregg Irish, director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, which organized the fairs. “That’s the whole intent — to fill the jobs with District residents first.”

Officials said about 86 percent of new hires are city residents.

RFK Stadium is the temporary home for the Washington Nationals until a new stadium is built by 2008. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, an independent city agency, runs operations at RFK Stadium and is overseeing its renovation.

Aramark Corp., the stadium concessionaire, is trying to fill 400 positions, from concession supervisors to stand workers, said General Manager Greg Costa.

Mr. Costa said providing jobs for city residents is a high priority for the company.

“The fairs have allowed us to go out to the communities,” he said. “We want local people serving the fans. It’s our goal to hire nothing but Washingtonians.”

Vendors for the proposed $630 million stadium in Southeast will likely have to reach out in similar ways in the next few years.

Critics of the city-financed deal have repeatedly dismissed supporters’ claims that a new stadium will bring economic prosperity to the entire city, saying the numerous jobs are low-paying, seasonal and without benefits.

A similar job fair last year attracted about 3,000 persons for roughly 1,000 jobs. Officials said yesterday’s lower turnout is partially because of the fairs held earlier this month.

Yesterday, job seekers went through a streamlined process for filling out applications and screening interviews. Employers said they would contact applicants within the next two to three weeks.

Officials said they were looking to hire in such large numbers partly because of turnover.

“The baseball season can be rough on people,” said Kynny Sutton, the sports commission’s event staff manager.

Lenny Lambert, a regional vice president for Contemporary Services Corp., said the company utilizes about 100 people for each event at RFK, handles crowd management, security services, guest services, ushering, ticket taking and parking.

The company was the only vendor to offer full-time positions.

The small number of vendors on hand left some residents nonplussed.

“Nothing here particularly caught my eye,” said Fred Brown of Northeast, who unsuccessfully sought warehouse work at the fair. Mr. Brown nevertheless filled out applications and interviewed with the three vendors. “It wasn’t quite up to my expectations,” he said.

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