Mayor Withheld Nationals' Opening-Day Baseball Tickets, Council Members Say

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray asked Nats to help.
Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray asked Nats to help. (Marvin Joseph/twp - The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In baseball, this is what you might call another kind of lockout.

Several D.C. Council members said they and some of their constituents were kept away from yesterday's home opener at Nationals Park because Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) was withholding 19 tickets to their suite at the stadium.

It's the second consecutive year that Nationals tickets have become a point of contention between Fenty and the council, underscoring how not even America's pastime can quell the tension at the Wilson Building.

Council members were expecting a season's worth of tickets to a skybox at Nationals Park. The mayor has his own suite at the ballpark and apparently received the tickets to the council's suite, too.

"Its deja vu," said council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). "We were assured this fiasco would not happen again, and here we are with no tickets."

Fenty was spotted at the Presidents Club at Nationals Park yesterday with several kids in tow, posing for photos.

Now, at least once council member is talking about introducing legislation to auction off Fenty's skybox at the ballpark, as well as the council's, to raise money for the city. And Theodore N. Lerner, a principal owner of the Washington Nationals, has been asked to intervene in the squabble.

Under the city's agreement with the Nationals, Gray said, Suite 61 at Nationals Park is made available to council members. They can take in the games themselves or distribute tickets to constituents.

Council members said the Nationals are supposed to deliver the tickets to the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which divvies them up.

Last year, Fenty came into possession of the council's tickets, and when he handed them out, he repeatedly overlooked members he had clashed with. In a show of unity, all the council members refused to accept tickets from Fenty.

The standoff lasted for a month and ended only after Attorney General Peter Nickles delivered to the council its full allotment of tickets.

Now, with another baseball season underway, the ticket issue is once again injuring relations between the council and mayor.

Fenty's staff did not respond to requests for comment. But Gray sent Lerner a letter yesterday afternoon asking that he void the tickets and reissue them directly to the council.

"We await your immediate response," Gray wrote.

A Nationals spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said he received two tickets for yesterday's game after he went to Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert. Graham said he needed the tickets because he had auctioned them off for charity. "The people who made the charitable donation . . . were justifiably wondering where their tickets were," Graham said. He added, "This is creating a lot of bad feelings down" at the Wilson Building.

In 2007, Fenty and the council got into a spat over tickets for a luxury suite at Verizon Center.

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) said he might have a solution to the annual power struggle over sports seating.

He said he is considering introducing legislation to auction the council's and the mayor's suites at the ballpark. "We should sell both boxes to the highest bidder and use the money to help with budget pressures," Brown said. "It's the people's boxes. It's the people's stadium. Why does the mayor get the boxes?"

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