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Tony Kornheiser

Parking Plan Has No Curb Appeal

By Tony Kornheiser
Monday, December 20, 2004; Page D01

Did I actually read in this newspaper over the weekend that somebody has a plan to raise $100 million for the new baseball stadium by installing curbside parking near that stadium? And this is a real proposal, not a joke? This is their idea of private financing?

Let me get this straight. Somebody thinks there's $100 million out there to be raised from parking meters? One hundred million dollars? Whew. That's a lot of quarters, man, a lot of quarters.

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Obviously it won't all be from quarters. Presumably, the heavy hitters will want valet parking, and I'm sure they'll be dealing in paper dollars (that the kid who gets your car will have to split with Linda Cropp, Adrian Fenty and David Catania, I guess). But the thrust of this is that parking meters are a growth industry! Who knew? And here I am wasting my time looking for beachfront property.

Again, I'm supposed to take this seriously, right? That there's $100 million out there in curbside parking near a baseball stadium that will be operating 81 dates a year? Really? How many meters are they gonna put in, 200,000? Are they gonna stretch them out all the way to Chincoteague and shuttle people to the game?

With Metro trains, buses and cabs, there probably are going to be only 10,000 cars at each game, max. Even at $20 a spot, it's going to be mighty hard to get $100 million from that -- considering all the up-front costs for meter maids. How much does the plan propose to charge us for nine innings worth of this curbside parking, $650? Because then we'll have to skip out of the stadium after every at-bat to feed the meter. Nah, parking meters alone won't get it done. Somebody's going to have to propose bake sales and car washes, too.

Curbside parking to the rescue? Give me a break.

The city would do better asking for private donations, like the big charities do. If they mailed me some of those self-sticking return-address labels (especially if they bore the cute little likenesses of Terrmel Sledge or Gary Bennett), I'd make a contribution. Now that I've got the radio gig back, I can throw in a couple of hundred bucks. I'd like it to be more, but I have kids in school.

I guess at this point Linda Cropp is entertaining all sorts of schemes as she searches for private money to throw into her stadium deal. Maybe the D.C. Council should have charged people to watch the Convention Center blow up Saturday. Did you see the photo of Mayor Tony Williams with his hands on the plunger to detonate the explosion? Did you see the big grin on his face? What do you think the mayor would have given to know that Linda Cropp was inside the Convention Center when he hit that plunger?

A lot of folks are going to bash her. And I would, too. Look, I'm a sportswriter -- of course, I want baseball in the town where I live and pay taxes, and, of course, I hold her primarily responsible for this fiasco. I'd like to see her head on a stick. But let me give Cropp this: She has made herself The Key Player in this game. All baseball roads go through Linda Cropp now, and not the mayor. When you see the mayor squirming, it's because she's got his, um, onions, in her hand, and she is squeezing the Charmin right now. It's hard to believe a smart big-city mayor like Tony Williams could have been punked like this. Marion Barry wouldn't have been.

(Might I interject something here about the Redskins? I sense a growing euphoria now that they've won a couple of games, and looked good doing so. This is just a reminder that those wins came over the Giants and the 49ers, two of the worst teams in the league, whose combined record is 7-21; 1-11 in the last six weeks. The Redskins have a wonderful defense and no discernible offense. I love it when some TV poodle points out that if the Redskins had scored just 20 points a game, they'd be 12-2. Yes, and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bicycle. The Redskins didn't score 20 points a game because they couldn't. It's not like they weren't trying. Are they better on offense with Patrick Ramsey than Mark Brunell? Yes. But who scored most of those points against the 49ers? The defense, not Ramsey. Every year a team goes from worst to first in the NFL, and I hope next year it will be the Redskins. But let's not hang that on beating the 49ers and Giants. You've got to beat some winning teams, too, and the Redskins are 0-5 this year against teams that have winning records. Sorry to be so negative, but this baseball deal has really bummed me out.)

In that same story about the curbside parking bonanza was a mention that private revenue might come from offering landowners near the new stadium the right to build taller buildings than current law allows. I'm not sure how this would bring money in -- unless you built buildings so gigantic that they obscured the view of the field, and in order to see the game the ticket holders had to rent a periscope, and the funds would go to the city.

Oh, wait, I know. You could build a parking lot 105 stories high, and get $100 million from that overnight. Yeah, sure.

I'm not as pessimistic about the Washington Nationals as many of my sportswriter colleagues are. They think baseball is dead here forever and ever and ever -- and they're on eBay trying to pick up a Nats hat as an heirloom. I wouldn't think Cropp wants to go before the electorate remembered mainly for driving baseball out of town. She knows the way to be a popular hero is to bring in baseball. So I suspect a deal will still be worked out, and Washington will get a baseball team. But if that doesn't happen, people who want to watch major league baseball will continue to drive to Baltimore, where they'll be treated well in a beautiful ballpark, even if the owner is a troll, and even if curbside parking isn't available.

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