Thomas Boswell rightly pointed out that $100 million is missing from the deal to bring the Montreal Expos baseball team to Washington ["Ballpark Figures Just Don't Add Up," Sports, March 20]. Closing the gap sounds like a tough task. But here's a thought: Cut out the middlemen and let the District buy the team, even for the inflated price of $200 million.
D.C. residents would own the team, just as Green Bay, Wis., owns the Packers football team.
The District could then spiff up RFK Stadium for $75 million. The city's initial investment would be $275 million, the same figure Mayor Anthony A. Williams has offered as the city's contribution toward a new stadium at New York Avenue and North Capitol streets for a team owned by others.
Just think about the marketing opportunities. There could be a sign on the outfield wall saying, "No Taxation Without Representation."
Cheerleaders? Call them Suffragettes. The team's purpose could be to win not just baseball games but also the vote: a franchise for the franchise.
Let us buy the team. We the people would profit over the long term.
Baseball's multimillionaire owners have the temerity to ask taxpayers to shell out as much as $500 million for a ballpark, even though San Francisco has shown that a ballpark can be funded privately.
Baseball needs the Washington area more than the area needs baseball. Moving the Montreal Expos to the Washington area, which has the nation's eighth-largest media market and a wealthy fan base, would nearly quadruple the team's worth of $120 million. Instead of offering taxpayer handouts to Major League Baseball, we should require team owners to plow part of that windfall back into stadium construction.
Stadium supporters are likely to argue that baseball is a good investment, but every credible study of the effect of new sports stadiums has found that they have a tiny effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment, and no recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenue.
Stadium subsidies are never a good investment of taxpayer dollars. In today's economic climate, they are inexcusable.
PAUL J. GESSING
Director of Government Affairs
National Taxpayers Union