In late November media reports surfaced that Washington Nationals majority owner Ted Lerner met with Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray over the summer and made an outlandish pitch. Lerner asked the District of Columbia, which financed and owns the $611 million state-of-the-art Nationals Park that opened in 2008, to spend an additional $300 million on the facility to provide it with a retractable roof.
Gray, who waited four months to make the details of the meeting public, told the Washington Post on November 26 that he rejected the request made during a brief 15-minute meeting held at city offices in July. “Lerner wanted to talk about was the possibility of a roof on Nationals Park.” Gray said. “There was no discussion about how much it was going to cost and no further details. I’ve had no further discussions,” he added.
Ballpark Digest reported that Lerner brought plans and rendering to his meeting with Gray. The Post reported “[t]he team has priced the roof at $300 million, the official said, but that number appears speculative.”
The District of Columbia charges the Nationals $5.5 million per year to play its 81 home games at Nationals Park each season. Under the terms of the lease, the Post reported, the District is obligated “to pay for ‘necessary’ capital improvements to the stadium over the course of its 30-year term.” The Washington Business Journal reported that “four of the 81 Nationals home games were postponed due to weather in 2013. A fifth was postponed after the Navy Yard shootings.”
A $300 million roof may be considered a “necessary” capital improvement by Nationals owner Lerner, but as far as Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is concerned, the expenditure is entirely superfluous.
Lerner may have been encouraged to think Gray might respond positively to the roof proposal since the District of Columbia recently agreed to make $50 million in improvements to the Verizon Center where the Washington Wizards play. In addition, Mayor Gray is on record supporting a prominent role for the District in the financing of a proposed multi-million dollar soccer stadium.
With an estimated net worth of $4 billion, Forbes Magazine recently reported that Lerner is one of the wealthiest people in America.
The Washington Nationals have refused to comment on the roof story since it broke in November. No one with the team, however, has denied the report that team owner Lerner met with Mayor Gray and pitched the roof deal. On Friday Breitbart Sports requested an end of the year comment from the Nationals on the story, but received no response.