No Joy in D.C. Over Word of Team Deal With Prince George's Hotel

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Washington Nationals and the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center are negotiating a deal to feature the baseball team at the new development in Prince George's County through a sports bar, store and possibly the title of "Official Hotel of the Washington Nationals," sources said yesterday.

Spokeswomen for the team and the hotel would not confirm specifics, but Chartese Burnett, vice president of communications for the Nationals, said that "there is an announcement imminent" about a partnership.

The joint venture is another coup for Gaylord and Prince George's and a setback for the District and its hospitality industry, which sees the new 2,000-room hotel as a competitor.

The hotel, part of the National Harbor project on the Potomac River, is set to open in April, the same time that the Nationals' new baseball stadium will begin welcoming fans. The District funded the stadium with $611 million in taxpayer money, which is being repaid through business and nonresidential utility taxes, including levies on hotels.

In November, council members were outraged when they learned that Gaylord had offered free space and services for the annual black-tie "Dream Gala" for the Nationals' charitable arm. And Bethesda was chosen to be the site of a festival for fans.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), a supporter of the ballpark, said news of the partnership was another letdown, because he expected the team to be the city's partner and to spur economic development among local businesses.

"Any relationship between the Washington Nationals and an entity not in the District of Columbia is disappointing, to say the least," he said. "It's not in the spirit of the deal."

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said he has been in contact with the team and has been told that a D.C. hotel will also be chosen for a sports bar and "official hotel" status.

"We gave them $611 million. I would love to have them in the District of Columbia," Brown said.

Emily Durso, president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., said she is not sure what it would mean to be the team's "official hotel." Her group is most concerned about rooms, and as far as she knows, the deal does not include a contract for rooms, Durso said. "For us, it's more about keeping our teams in the city," she said.

Burnett and Amie Gorrell, a spokeswoman for Gaylord, would not comment.

Asked whether Gaylord would have a contract to provide rooms, Gorrell said, "I cannot confirm anything at this point."

Burnett said that the Nationals cannot dictate where visiting teams stay and that the Nationals have booked rooms at hotels in the District.

Stan Kasten, president of the Nationals, has said that the team is "regional" and that it will hold promotions and events beyond the District's borders.

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