Nationals' Events in Maryland Anger D.C.

Nationals President Stan Kasten said there are no plans to change the gala's venue.
Nationals President Stan Kasten said there are no plans to change the gala's venue. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

District officials are outraged that the Washington Nationals plan to go to Maryland for major events celebrating the team's first season in the city-funded $611 million stadium complex.

The baseball club's charitable arm will host its annual black tie "Dream Gala" at Gaylord National, a new hotel across the Potomac in Prince George's County, and the team will hold its FanFest, a day-long celebration, in Bethesda.

There are no firm plans, as of yet, to hold a kick-off event in the District, though the team says it is working on that. "I guess we're like Charlie Brown or Rodney Dangerfield. We can't get respect," council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said yesterday. "This is just an outrage."

Last fiscal year, $36 million in business and nonresidential utility taxes, including those from hotels, were collected to help repay the money borrowed for the stadium.

Stan Kasten, president of the Nationals, said the Dream Foundation chose Gaylord National, at the new National Harbor development, because the hotel came free of charge. Money raised at the event goes to D.C. children, he said, including the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy to teach baseball to children.

In March, the foundation paid about $250,000 to have the event at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, where Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, served as honorary chairman. One of the highlights of the evening was a tribute to RFK Stadium, where the team played temporarily. Next year's gala is also being planned for March.

"What about the fact that there is a whole lot of money going to D.C.?" Kasten asked, adding that the $250,000 can now go directly to the foundation.

He added that the team is holding events all over the region because the Nationals consider themselves a regional team. They are in the process of scheduling several events to promote Opening Day, and some would be held in the District, he said. The plans just haven't been solidified.

Council members dismissed Kasten's reasoning.

"We gave them a $611 million free stadium. I think that entitles us to have their gala at our businesses," council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) said.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who voted against the final baseball stadium deal in 2006, called the move "offensive."

"That's like taking a stick and poking your eye. What a level of ingratitude. The timing is worse than ever. We're opening the $611 million stadium and . . . to have the annual banquet in Prince George's County, that's staggering," he said. "I would hope that we could work this out."

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