October 18, 2018

Could Amazon.com Nationals Park Be a “Thing?”

February 9, 2018 by · 2 Comments 

Naming rights are a very boring topic in the vast universe of what falls under the constellation known as “baseball.” Who really cares what you call the stadium as long as baseball is played there, unless you care about the old place names like Fenway Park and player names like Smoky Joe Wood and Dizzy Dean. That is a separate discussion. Let’s focus for now on what is afoot in DC that could make naming rights a very interesting baseball topic for local fans.

Washington, DC is home to nine of the twenty sites being evaluated as the new headquarters for Amazon.com. DC, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, MD account for nine sites, while the rest of the entire country has eleven. So what does that say? Who know and what does it have to do with baseball? Not much at first glance, but humor me. The Lerner family owns the White Flint Shopping Mall site that is currently labelled “Montgomery County, MD,” in the Amazon HQ site grouping. The site is largely empty and the odds are only one-in-twenty that Jeff Bezos is contemplating it more than others. But it is interesting to note that the Lerner family also owns the Washington Nationals and they have a stadium without a corporate name.

The Lerners announced several years ago that the naming rights to Nationals Park–where they hold a 99-year lease–would be sold in 2016. Fans waited for the other shoe to drop, but nothing happened. All season long there was speculation as to whether it would be Geico or Norfolk and Western Park–a personal favorite, but nada, nothing.  The Lerner family decided to wait to announce the naming rights for Nationals Park at about the same time that Amazon became serious in its selection for an HQ site.

There is more immediate stadium news today out of Tampa where the city may have finally broken the log jam for stadium selection and is in the process of finalizing a new stadium development plan in Ybor City. That is great news of a very real nature for baseball generally. You can almost smell the old Cuban cigar factories that hopefully will hang on in the area and give the new stadium a distinctive “flavor.” But what will make the site actually thrive economically is its location on the eastern outskirts of the Tampa central business district adjacent to Interstate 4. The adjacency to I-4 will provide far readier access to the Orlando/Tampa suburbs–places like Plant City, Lakeland and Winter Haven.

By linking the stadium to two large metropolitan areas, the Rays go from one of the smallest small market teams, to a somewhat more substantial entity. Maybe they are even big enough to compete with the Baltimore Orioles who have, alas, lost their claim to DC. Speaking of side effects, the loss of Orlando and the Disney World imprimatur that had been home to the Atlanta Braves would mean that whatever progress “America’s team”–if you remember Ted Turner’s old marketing scheme fro the 1990’s–had made in creating Braves fans in central Florida would be out the window. Oh no!! Boo hoo hoo for Los Bravos!!

Back to our nation’s capital, Jeff Bezos and the current king of the NL East hill, the Washington Nationals.

There are other sites in the Washington, DC metro area that Amazon has under consideration. Yes, there are many good reasons why Philadelphia might be chosen. But Bezos already has a presence in DC by owning the Washington Post. HOW attractive it would be to expand the Amazon presence in DC beyond the Washington Post at is an open question for which I have no answer. Is there some unknown synergy there? Don’t know. Not my thing.

But consider if you will the idea of a Amazon.com headquarters building just two miles outside the Beltway. The White Flint site is currently zoned for high density residential and commercial mixed use with a portion of the site zoned for very high density use that might allow some state-of-the-art skyscraper building as the center piece of a new Bezosville outside DC. Picture the “Beltway” as yellow brick road and Bezosville as the Emerald City and you are there.

And what would be better for Bezosville than having a baseball stadium on the other side of town named “Amazon.com Park?” You have to admit there is a fascinating synergy to all of it that might have appeal over and above anything the Phillies can offer. No doubt the Lerner family currently is concentrating its best and brightest on Jeff Bezos rather than on Bryce Harper’s long term signability. Harp’s Under Armour contract might look pretty nice, but the naming rights for Nationals Park will be something else again if they belong to Amazon.com.

So stay tuned baseball fans. The weather outside is frightening and baseball is around the corner. But until then we are stuck with issues like new stadiums, naming rights and whether the players are being denied a few million here and there in some new-fangled collusion by owners. Desperate times call for desperate topics.

Comments

2 Responses to “Could Amazon.com Nationals Park Be a “Thing?””
  1. Mike Shapiro says:

    Certainly a possibility, but I’m leaning towards Mars. Maybe a rotating field name, like April: Snickers Field @ Mars Park; May: Skittles Field @ Mars Park; June: M&Ms Field @ Mars Park; etc.

  2. As we discussed last night at the Silver Diner, there are lots of possibilities. The graphics for “Mars Park” are a big plus–home run ball headed for the red planet on the scoreboard. That would put some fannies in the seats and having Elon Musk do some stuff, maybe drive his Tesla that went to Mars around the park. Instead of shooting off fireworks after every home run they could shoot off M&M’s that would rain down on the faithful. As you can see, I got a million ideas. The Lerners never call; they never write. Go figure!!

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