Nationals Park won’t be hitting a home run with profits this year.Nationals Park, the recently opened, $611-million home ballpark for the Washington Nationals, is expected to garner roughly $13.5 million in sales taxes this year, falling short of the originally projected $16.1 million.

The stadium, completed in March 2008, has had difficulty selling tickets, which has been attributed to both a slowing economy and to the Nationals’ poor showing this baseball season. The Nationals are currently ranked 20 out of 30 Major League Baseball franchises with regard to attendance for 2008.

According to the 2005 proposal set forth by then Mayor Anthony Williams, the District planned to “cover costs [to pay down the debt] by using stadium taxes – most of which come from Nationals fans who live in Maryland and Virginia.” But these expected crowds never materialized, and plans for the expansion of transportation services to accommodate the visitors, including the creation of a water-taxi service from Virginia, were never implemented.

Though the city is able to pay the debt, in part because a special tax on local businesses has generated more money than anticipated, the failure of the ballpark to take in sufficient revenues is the latest in a series of setbacks involving the Nationals’ new home.

D.C. real estate mogul Theodore Lerner, who in 2006 acquired the Nationals franchise for $450 million, has refused to pay the city nearly $3.5 million in rent, contending that the stadium itself is not “substantially complete,” according to a Lerner group statement.

During negotiations with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, Lerner representatives cited numerous problems with the park, including general sound and lighting issues. A representative for Nationals Park did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

This financial situation is the subject of interest among baseball fans on Georgetown’s campus, many of whom have their own opinions regarding the underlying problems for the Nationals. “The team doesn’t have very many redeeming qualities,” says JC Hodges (SFS ’11), a longtime baseball enthusiast. “They don’t have any standout players, there isn’t a sense of excitement or camaraderie at the stadium, but most importantly, they just can’t win games,” he said, citing the team’s current win-loss record of 59 to 102.

Steady decreases in ticket prices since the park’s opening have already made it the least expensive ballpark in Major League Baseball. Earlier this month, the park announced that prices would again be cut for the coming year, with over one-third of seats priced under $20.

“I love baseball in general, and games here are already inexpensive and convenient to get to,” said Vincent Kennedy (COL ’11), who describes himself as a casual fan.

“I’d definitely like to go out there more often . but they need to make the games worth it,” he said. “It’s not as fun to watch a lower quality team.”

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