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The Old Ballgame in a New City

And there are plans to build a baseball stadium on 20 acres of Anacostia riverfront, near the Navy Yard, by March 2008.

In the District, the federal workforce has declined by about 10,000, but the service sector workforce has gone up by 129 percent.

John Folan, who brought his four children to the Senators' last game, shows off the foul ball he caught that night. (Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

The city has 102 hotels, compared with 35 back then, according to the Hotel Association of Washington. One of them is the Willard, now among a number of luxury lodgings.

Spurred in part by the rise of federal contracting, the sectors of law, lobbying, entertainment, science, medicine and technology have exploded throughout the region. The largest locally based biotechnology, telecommunications and government services employers -- MedImmune, Nextel and GTSI, with combined revenue of more than $15 billion last year -- did not exist in 1971. The federal government spent $42.2 billion on contracting in the region in 2003, according to Stephen S. Fuller, a regional economist at George Mason University -- a figure 10 times the amount in 1980, the first year for which he has statistics.

Per capita annual income for the District is calculated this year to be $50,301, he said. In 1971, in today's dollars, it was $22,043. There have been similar increases in the suburbs.

"It's the private sector that's driving this," Fuller said. "It's an enormous engine of wealth."

Most of the region's job growth has been in the suburbs, in dense agglomerations such as Tysons Corner, corporate office parks and strip malls. The suburbs have among the nation's lowest unemployment rates. In Fairfax County, which regularly ranks among the nation's most affluent, more than one in three households has an income of $100,000 or more.

Vast tracts of new homes have spread into the countryside. The population of Loudoun County, for example, has nearly quadrupled. The county is the fastest-growing in the country, though the county seat, Leesburg, is 40 miles from Washington.

The District has retained substantial numbers of black residents, most of whom were born in the city. But the majority of the region's black residents, like most Americans, now live in the suburbs.

The black exodus began in the 1970s, a decade in which the black population of Prince George's County, the premier destination, nearly tripled. That county now is the most prosperous majority-black suburb in the country, and many African Americans now are moving to outer suburbs such as Charles and Prince William counties.

As for those who attended the last game, Ron Gasbarri is a 51-year-old entrepreneur who lives in Fairfax, still loves baseball and laments the rising popularity of soccer.

Dean Phillips, 53, resides in North Carolina, where, after decades as a TV newscaster, he teaches at North Carolina State University. On visits home to his father in McLean, he finds the pace here frenetic.

John Folan, 71, lives in the same colonial he had built for $43,000 in 1965. Now the house is worth about $600,000, and Fredericksburg is practically a suburb of Washington.

His eldest boy, John Jr., who was 11 when he marveled at his father's barehanded foul ball catch that fall night three decades ago, died in 1995. His other children are grown and scattered. Daughter Anne, 44, lives on Capitol Hill, not far from the stadium where they watched the last game.

She moved there from Virginia in 1994, bought a condo in 1997 -- it has tripled in value -- and has seen the city and region transformed.

It's a "real Cinderella story," she said, "a real up-from-the-ashes kind of thing."

"It's happened kind of incrementally, so it's easy to miss," she said. "But if you do the fast rewind and look at where it was . . . it's amazing."

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