The Money Pit
What if they held a baseball game and nobody came? Answer: As long as the tickets were paid for in advance MLB couldn't care less. The District, on the other hand, loses out on money from parking, memorabilia and concessions. The Post says the no-shows look to cost the city roughly $500,000 of it's $10.5 million estimated tax revenue. Meanwhile, MLB is set for a well-documented windfall, with the Nats $25 million profit finishing $5 million above even mid-season projections.
My take on this is that it's just one more reason for the city not to be bullied into a bad lease agreement by MLB. MLB is making much more money on the current arrangement than the city, especially considering the $18.5 million DC spent to renovate RFK last winter. Any lease for the new stadium is going to put the eventual owners in an even more comfortable position, considering they aren't contributing nickel one to land acquisition or construction costs. So the Sports & Entertainment Commission and the city council should hold out for a good deal for the city in terms of dedicated tax revenue and local ownership.
The other potentially bad sign noted in the Post article was the high rate of no-shows at Nats games. On average 33,728 tickets were sold for each home game, but more than 25% of those were never used. The industry standard for non-attendance is 15-20%. On one hand, I'm not particularly surprised by this. A lot of those tickets figured to be corporate-owned, given out as perks to staff and clients. Over 81 games it's reasonable to expect that not every ticket to every game would be used. But 25% is an awfully high number, and I think it should be cause for concern, particularly if the Nats get off to a slow start next year, once the magic of the "inaugural season" has worn off. Slipping attendance is a ready-made excuse for an out-of-town owner with shareholder commitments to start doing the relocation/contraction dance. And if you think MLB wouldn't give Jeff Smulyan the team, let him run it into contraction and then give him the Reds, you haven't been paying attention.
Meanwhile, Across Town...
Washington City Paper busts out our first inside peek at the design of the new stadium. Capitol Punishment has the depressing in-depth analysis. The synopsis: Those of us in the cheap (or moderately-priced) seats, probably ought not be in such a hurry to vacate RFK. It may be a dingy, cavernous old relic but it has wide seats, good leg room and very good sightlines to the field (especially from Sec. 313). The new stadium might have all the bells and whistles $535 million can buy, but it won't be the proletarian palace that is The Bobby. And parking's gonna suck.