City Desk

Please Stop Calling It a $611 Million Ballpark, Please

This morning, the Washington Post flooded the proverbial zone on its Nationals Park coverage—dozens of its reporters documented every last aspect of the ballpark's first official major-league game. The Post also flooded the paper with an inaccuracy: That the stadium cost $611 million.

The $611 million figure reflects the cap that the D.C. Council imposed on District financing back when it approved the stadium deal. Since then, costs have risen, largely due to inaccurate estimations of land acquisition costs by Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi. A January report issued by the CFO's office showed that land and environmental remediation costs had to date run $43 million over estimates. (To get around the cap, some legal costs were moved out of the capped-cost category to an uncapped "ancillary costs" category last summer.)

Depending on the outcome of various land disputes (check out some early CP reporting on the issue), the local contribution to stadium construction is likely to edge into the mid-to-upper 600s, with the total project cost—including contributions from the team, Major League Baseball, and the federal government—likely to end up close to $800 million.

And yet:

  • In their A1 lede-all, Dave Sheinin and Daniel LeDuc refer to "a $611 million, taxpayer-built palace in a formerly blighted part of the District"
  • Marc Fisher kicks off his column with, "So, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, what did you get for your $611 million?"
  • Tom Boswell refers to MLB's sweetheart deal as comprising "a $611 million stadium and a $450 million purchase price by the Lerners"
  • Barry Svrluga's sports-section fronter talks about the Nats' "brand new, custom built, $611 million home"
  • Philip Kennicott wraps up his pan of the stadium and its surroundings with the line, "All that for $611 million in public money."

Here's the thing: Plenty of people have repeated the $611 million figure, but the Post should know the number isn't right. They published a very helpful graphic saying so last week!

Photo by D.F. Shapinsky for pingnews/Shapinsky MultiMedia

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  • BBC

    Then we have things like METRO and street upgrades that are grouped in with stadium costs. Hay, I think I should hold off on having my house repointed because someone my lump that cost in with the stadium costs!

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