After a months of silence about the issue, Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner said it is unlikely that a retractable roof will be added to Nationals Park, an idea presented by managing owner Theodore N. Lerner to city officals and flatly rejected last summer. Mark Lerner made the comments on Friday during Comcast’s broadcast of the Wizards‘ game against the Magic in Orlando, which is about an hour from Viera, where the Nationals host spring training.
Despite numerous requests, Mark Lerner has not been made available to speak with reporters at spring training. But he finally addressed the roof issue during Friday’s broadcast.
“I don’t believe it’s going to happen,” he said. “We inquired. We’re always looking to do things that are unique. It was a way to have more events in Nationals Park. It was an idea we were throwing around in a room. It wasn’t that we specifically asked for it. We were just talking about it.”
In November, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Theodore Lerner pitched him last summer on a plan to have the city build a retractable roof over Nationals Park, which Gray rejected. Nationals Park was built with more than $600 million in taxpayer financing and opened in 2008. One city official speculated in November that a roof could cost close to $300 million.
Mark Lerner was also asked Friday about the state of the team. He said he is hopeful injured pitcher Doug Fister can return to the mound in game next week. He also said he was pleased with how new Manager Matt Williams has run spring training. As for analysts picking the Nationals to be a World Series contender, Lerner was cautious.
“I never like that,” he said. “Our goal is to play a good season, get in the playoffs. Take it one at a time. I’m not a guy for predictions. We’re doing the best we can. [General Manager] Mike [Rizzo] has done a fabulous job of building the team. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Nationals have been pushing to host an all-star game in Washington, an effort MLB Commissioner Bud Selig referred to as a “determined pitch.” The soonest the Nationals could host an all-star game is 2017. Selig has said the Nationals are a “prime candidate” to host a game.
“I sure hope so,” Lerner said. “I’ve been lobbying the commissioner since 2007. I’m not going to stop until we get it. It’s in his hands.”