Saturday, January 12, 2008

Washington Nationals fans without season tickets will find parking in the vicinity of the team’s new ballpark virtually impossible because of a shortage of available lots, a team official said yesterday.

Gregory McCarthy, the team’s director of the ballpark district, told members of the D.C. Council that the Nationals will encourage single-game ticket holders to take Metro or park in satellite lots because the team barely has enough spaces to accommodate even its full-season plan holders.

Unlike RFK Stadium, vast parking lots do not surround the Nationals’ new ballpark. Instead, the city and team have rushed to identify spaces in a hodgepodge of garages and surface lots in Southeast and Southwest near the ballpark.

The team has 4,000 parking spaces identified and secured, and anticipates having 1,000 more available in time for an exhibition game against the Orioles on March 29. It had hoped to secure between 5,000 and 7,000 spaces for this season.

“We have a parking deficit around the ballpark,” McCarthy said during a hearing of the council’s economic development committee.

Season-ticket holders will receive parking request forms in the mail beginning Monday, McCarthy said. The team has not guaranteed parking for any other fans. Council members said they worried fans without season tickets would drive into nearby residential areas in a search for places to park.

“That’s a fairly high expectation, that if someone’s going to come to a game, they only have two options to get there,” council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat said. “People are very tenacious.”

The Nationals likely will draw well more than 30,000 fans a game to the new ballpark and are expected to sell out many games. The team expects about 50 percent of fans to use Metro on game days, with most exiting at the Navy Yard Metro Station, which is undergoing an expansion to accommodate crowds. McCarthy said the team will distribute 100,000 brochures with explanations as to the best way to travel to Nationals games.

The Nationals also plan to offer free parking and shuttle service from lots near RFK Stadium to the new ballpark, but a deal for use of the spaces is not yet in place. The team has asked to use the lots for free, paying only for operational costs, but the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission has asked the team to pay for the use of some spaces.

Council member Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, balked at the notion of offering parking to the team at no cost.

“Free is not a good word to use,” Brown said. “I don’t think people intended to have free parking on city property at RFK.”

Area residents testified that the city was not doing enough to keep traffic from disrupting their quality of life.

“We’re greatly concerned that the city still has no comprehensive plan,” said Andy Litsky, vice chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D, located near the ballpark. “We continue to hear, ‘It’s a work in progress.’ The refrain from the city is ‘Take Metro, take Metro.’ But the corollary to that is ‘Build it and they will come.’ And unfortunately, many people will come by car.”

Officials from the D.C. Department of Transportation, which oversees many of the parking and traffic plans for the area, did not testify yesterday. Brown yesterday said he hoped to schedule a joint hearing between his committee and the council’s committee on public works and the environment, which oversees DDOT.

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