- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mark Lerner admits he is not a patient man.

As a principal owner of the Nationals, he knows that rebuilding a franchise and constructing a new stadium can’t happen overnight. He just wishes it could.

“It’s hard to wait for the farm system to improve — and we’re already leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year when we purchased the team,” Lerner said. “It’s also hard to wait to get into the new ballpark. And it seems to be going up very quickly, but it’s never fast enough.”

At the very least, the Lerner family is now in a position to make things happen. Around this time last year, Mark Lerner and his father, Ted, were still waiting for Major League Baseball to approve the sale of the Nationals to the Lerner family. By the time the family took over in mid-summer, it was too late in the season to make big changes on the field, and efforts to build a new stadium for the team were bogged down by squabbling about on-site parking garages and other matters.

Now, things are moving the way they should. The on-the-field rebuilding process has begun in earnest. The ballpark is on time and on budget, according to the city. And every member of the family has been involved in some aspect of the Nationals’ rebuilding process, from working with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission on the new ballpark project to improving fan experience to community outreach and charitable fundraising. To a large degree, the Lerner family is running the Nationals in the same way it has run Lerner Enterprises, the large real estate firm founded by Ted Lerner in 1952.

“One big similarity for us is that we run both Lerner Enterprises and the Nationals as a family, so there’s lots of input and energy from everyone,” Lerner said. “It keeps us all close.”

In the immediate term, fans will notice some new improvements to the food and entertainment options at RFK Stadium and will learn later this month about new activities of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.

“The experience has been more thrilling, daunting and satisfying than I could have imagined,” Lerner said. “It’s been great for our entire family, and it’s been exciting for me personally.”

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