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Nats playoff run sets off millions in spending

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Photo - Fans at Nationals Park.
Fans at Nationals Park.
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

As Washington gets ready to host its first home baseball playoff game in the modern era, experts disagree on just how much the region will capitalize on the team's playoff run. But they do agree on one thing: Excited fans spend lots of money.

"That's an enormous economic benefit where we don't know what the measure is," said sports economics expert Dennis Coates, of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Although, if the rate of inflation on Washington Nationals tickets selling online is any measure, then postseason baseball collectively means millions to local businesses, the city and others invested in the team's success. World Series four-ticket packages are selling on eBay for up to $50,000. Nats season ticket-holders who paid $50 for their tickets to Wednesday's Game 3 of the National League Division Series said they saw similar seats online selling for three times that amount.

Tax revenues getting a boost by Nationals postseason play
» Ballpark concessions/merchandise sales tax 10%
» Ballpark ticket sales tax 10%
» Ballpark parking tax 12%
» D.C. sales tax 5.75%
» D.C. hotel tax 14.5%
» D.C. restaurant tax 10%

John Maroon, head of a Columbia, Md., sports marketing firm, said the fact that Wednesday marks the Nationals' first home playoff game since the team arrived in D.C. in 2005 works in area businesses' favor. It's also the first baseball playoff game in the District since the Washington Senators lost the World Series to the New York Giants in 1933.

"The first of anything, or the first in a long time, it makes people more excited," Maroon said. "I guarantee you we're more excited about the [Baltimore] Orioles and Nationals than New York is about the Yankees or than San Francisco is about the Giants, because they've been there recently."

Economic impact studies released by other cities have varying results. Baseball playoffs ranged from a $33.6 million boon in St. Louis in 2000 to $79.8 million in New York in 1998, according to an article by Coates. Washington's regional population, 5.7 million, sits between the population of those two markets, though Coates cautions against directly comparing impact studies as they may use different measurements.

Coates also noted that the spending related to the playoffs isn't necessarily new money to the region.

"People are going to games now," he said. "But last year, they didn't go to games, so what else did they [spend it on]?"

Still, the spending spree that has already started in the form of merchandise and ticket sales and overcrowded bars during Nats away games is focusing that money on D.C.'s entertainment industry. Restaurants stand to gain the most, as fans who don't have tickets to Wednesday's game are expected to rally at local watering holes.

Justin's Cafe, the lone bar in the ballpark's Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, is expecting a packed house on Wednesday. And that's after a year of Justin Ross seeing business booming even on away game nights.

"It's going to be busier than we've ever been," he said. "The streets are going to be packed with people too -- I'm expecting it to be mayhem."

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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