WASHINGTON -- With the Nationals inching closer to the playoffs, baseball fans at Nationals Park could be left stranded without a ride home if weeknight games stretch beyond Metrorail's midnight closing.
After weeks of back-and-forth discussions between the District of Columbia government and the Nats over who will cover the cost of keeping the rail system open to accomodate potential late weeknight games, the team ownership is insisting that they won't pay.
WTOP-FM reports there is extra pressure coming from Major League Baseball itself, with sources telling the radio station that the MLB is concerned about the possible precedent it would set for teams in other cities.
D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) told Newschannel8's Bruce DePuyt on Monday that the situation is complex and that some sort of deal needs to be brokered. "Major League Baseball has made it clear that in no city in the country does a team have to pick up the tab for games that go beyond (the closing of a system)," Evans told DePuyt.
The risk of stranded baseball fans is very real. Following one rain-delayed game in August that ran 13 innings, many Nats fans showed up at the Navy Yard station after midnight to find the system closed and themselves stranded.
Following the outrage, WTOP reported that the Nationals said the D.C. government needed to cover the cost of keeping the Metrorail system open in the event of a late game, which costs roughly $30,000 per extra hour of service.
The Redskins and the Capitals have agreements with Metro for such late-night situations. The Nationals do not.
The D.C. government, according to The Washington Post, has resisted the Nationals' calls for it to foot the bill, like it previously did when the team first moved to town. Budget cuts forced D.C. government officials to retreat from covering the costs to keep Metrorail open for late games.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said last week she expects the Nationals to cover the cost of extra security needed to deal with the playoffs, according to WTOP.
But now that the playoffs are within sight, the pressure is on to find a solution. Post sports columnist Tracee Hamilton, noting that the D.C. government has already funded the construction of Nationals Park and associated infrastructure, wrote last month that it’s "time for [the Nats] to stand on their own two cleats."