Fight over electronic billboards’ place in D.C. moves to Nationals Park

Washington Post
Luz Lazo
A proposal to turn the walls of Nationals Park into a lucrative revenue source by allowing flashing digital billboards has revived a debate about the impact of such displays on the city’s monumental appeal.

Some city officials say the signs are appropriate in entertainment districts and can add value to neighborhood identity as long as they are tastefully done. Critics, including many who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the ballpark, say the gigantic advertising screens threaten their peace and views of the city’s iconic buildings, such as the U.S. Capitol.

“Let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas,” said George Clark of the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia in a plea to the D.C. Council. “That is the place for huge and glitzy electronic signs, not the nation’s capital.”

The Nationals have been lobbying the city to allow the installation of 10 LED screens that would generate $3 million to $5 million annually, according to club officials. The revenue would boost its ability to acquire star players and raise its status with Major League Baseball, Alan Gottlieb, a partner in the team, said at a public hearing on the proposal.

“The cost of players continues to rise,” Gottlieb said. “With costs ever increasing, we need to find avenues to be able to generate additional revenue.”

But critics say that if the council approves the ballclub’s request to add displays as large as 35 feet by 34 feet, it will open the door to a proliferation of the signs.

“This signals a tsunami of billboards around the city,” said Meg Maguire, a member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, a planning and land use advocacy group.

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