“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…”

Not much can replace singing these words during the 7th inning stretch of a ballgame with a loaded ballpark frank and a cold beverage in your hand. Baseball, still widely considered America’s past time, provides a great opportunity for friends and family to get together and cheer on their favorite teams and players.

After a 33 year absence, baseball returned to the nation’s capital as the Montreal Expos under ownership of the MLB were sold to a new ownership group and re-branded as the “Washington Nationals”. After playing their first three seasons in RFK Stadium, the Nationals opened the 2008 season in their new home, Nationals Park. Located in Southeast Washington along the fast-developing waterfront area near the Navy Yard, Nationals Park is a monumental aspect of the redevelopment and growth in the Southeast area of Washington D.C.

But as we enter the summer months, many individuals are reminded this time of year of how 41,546 spectators can have the privilege to enjoy a ball game experience in Nationals Park, and it is known as the “Ballpark Fee”.

Building Nationals Park cost $701.3 million, according to a 2008 estimate. The District of Columbia contributed $670.3 million, paying $135 million upfront and borrowing another $535 million. To pay for the bonds it issued to cover the $535 million stadium debt, the city created four revenue sources. A gross receipts tax, also known as the “Ballpark Fee”, was created to tax “any person that derived at least $5 million in annual District of Columbia gross receipts.” The other sources of revenue developed were a share of the utility taxes paid by every non-residential taxpayer, a 4.25% special sales tax on stadium sales, and rent paid by the Nationals organization.

According to the Ballpark Financing Act, it is appropriate for the District of Columbia to impose this ballpark fee because construction and development of Nationals Park is a “municipal use that is in the interest of, and for the benefit of, the citizens of the District of Columbia because such a publicly-owned stadium or arena will contribute to the social and economic well-being of the citizens of the District of Columbia and significantly enhance the economic development and employment opportunities within the District of Columbia.”

District gross receipts are those derived from any activity such as sales, rents, services, commissions, etc., from any source within the District. Gross receipts are determined without deduction of any expenses. Each entity subject to the ballpark fee must file and pay the Form FR-1500 on or before June 15th of each year.

Ballpark Fee Schedule

DC Gross Receipts Ballpark Fee
Less than $5,000,000 $0
$5,000,000 to $8,000,000 $5,500
$8,000,0001 to $12,000,000 $10,800
$12,000,001 to $16,000,000 $14,000
$16,000,0001 and greater $16,500

This summer, many fans will continue to hop off the Navy Yard metro stop on the green line to cheer on the Nationals as they continue their battle to defend the NL East division. It is fair to say that the success of the ball club has a direct correlation with the economic benefit derived in the area with more fans consistently attending games and boosting sales. As long as fans continue to past time in the District either before or after a ball game, hopefully business owners and individuals can realize the true benefit of the Ballpark fee with having the opportunity to enjoy a warm evening in Southeast DC in one of the premier open air baseball stadiums in the country.

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