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Thousands Seek RFK Stadium Jobs

At D.C. Armory, Companies Recruit Applicants to Fill 900 Positions

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page C01

District resident Gregory Muse donned a maroon shirt and patterned tie yesterday and headed to a job fair at the D.C. Armory to find employment.

But he acknowledged he had an ulterior motive: The event was for jobs related to Washington Nationals games, something Muse, a longtime baseball fan, figured would be a bonus.

India Robinson and Mike Meachum, foreground, stand in line at D.C. Armory to apply for jobs to work Nationals and DC United games. (Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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"I'm looking for something in ticket sales or concessions," said Muse, 20, of Northeast Washington. "It would be great to say I was there for the first pitch of D.C. baseball."

Muse was part of a massive crowd of job hunters, some of whom were in line an hour before the event began at 9 a.m. By 11 a.m., about 1,000 people had arrived. By day's end, about 3,000 applicants had passed through the doors, organizers said.

Across the street, construction crews have been working to prepare Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium for Opening Day of the Nationals' inaugural season. But inside the armory, a different kind of feverish activity was occurring to ensure that the stadium will open smoothly next month.

Representatives from the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, the concessions company Aramark and IM Park Inc. were perusing résumés, conducting background checks and interviewing candidates to fill roughly 900 positions at RFK for the coming seasons of the Nationals and the D.C. United soccer team.

The job-seekers were swiped with a hand-held metal detector, and they filled out applications, showed identification and stood in several lines -- all to get a five-minute interview and potentially a call this week with a job offer.

Many of those in the crowd were not drawn by the Nationals, however, but by the chance to make $6.60 to $11 an hour, they said. Available positions included cashiers, cooks, warehouse workers and parking attendants.

"I don't understand sports. I just need a job," said Lisa Brinkley, 21, of Northeast, who showed up with her mother, Addie.

Addie Brinkley, 50, who works at the National Institutes of Health, said she was seeking a part-time job at RFK so she could later receive Social Security benefits.

"I'm surprised at the turnout," she said. "I got here at 8 a.m. and the line was halfway down the street."

To Gregg Irish, the director of the District's Department of Employment Services, the turnout showed that the Nationals already have made good on a promise made by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) when he promoted the team and a new stadium project: The team's presence is creating jobs that can benefit residents.

"Some people say these are just entry-level jobs, but look at all these people. This shows we need to create lower-level jobs that are within reach of some of our residents," said Irish, wearing a blue Nationals cap and white D.C. Baseball '05 T-shirt.

Although the job fair attracted residents of the District, Maryland and Virginia, the city has pushed the sports commission, Aramark and IM Park to hire as many D.C. residents as possible, Irish said.

Willie Ellison, Aramark's human resources director, said his company's goal is to hire D.C. residents for at least 51 percent of the 700 positions it hopes to fill before Opening Day on April 4. A second job fair is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 26 at Eastern High School.

Yesterday, the crowd was overwhelmingly black, and the backgrounds of the applicants varied widely. Some were working in low-paying jobs and sought a new opportunity. Some were just out of high school, and others were older and more experienced. Some were ex-offenders who said that they were trying to clean up their lives and that they hoped their backgrounds would not count against them.

Critics such as Ed Lazere, head of No D.C. Taxes for Baseball -- which protested the District's agreement to spend public money on a new stadium -- said D.C. leaders have been misleading and disingenuous about the benefits of baseball to the city. The 900 jobs advertised yesterday were all low-paying, part-time positions that offered no benefits, Lazere contended.

"The big turnout clearly is a sign that lots of people need jobs and are eager to work," Lazere said. "The city should use its economic development energy to be creating jobs that are family-supporting."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company