Escrow Accounts for Phantom Seats Keep Dream of Baseball Alive in D.C

By Di Stephan, Denise | American Banker, July 25, 1985 | Go to article overview

Escrow Accounts for Phantom Seats Keep Dream of Baseball Alive in D.C


Di Stephan, Denise, American Banker


WHAT'S SO UNUSUAL about sports fans in a major city blowing money on season baseball tickets? Nothing -- unless the city has no team. Though Washington, D.C., has lost two major league baseball teams, 28 banks in the D.C. metropolitan area have chalked up over $2 million worth of season tickets since deposits were first made in the beginning of May, hoping to lure a team to their city.

If a team is formed, the money will go for the actual tickets, which were purchased by corporations and fans on a contingency basis. Since the funds were placed in interest-bearing escrow accounts, they will be returned to the depositors with interest if a team does not appear.

A team would stimulate the local economy, bringing in business and generating tax revenues, pointed out Bob Pincus, president and chief executive officer of D.C. National Bank, one of the banks participating in holding escrow accounts. But the main reason the bucks are there is that the fans want a team to call their own.

This ground swell of public support, amounting to 1,727 seats sold for an 81-game season, shows that fans have been hungry for a team since the Washington Senators left town for Texas in 1971. (An earlier version of the Senators departed for Minnesota in 1961.)

"We have in excess of 4,600 seats right now," said Bob Pincus, "We're optimistic to sell 10,000 season tickets. The support in this town is really beginning to snowball."

But Denver, New Orleans, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami, and Indianapolis also want teams, and the Senators' poor batting average -- 0 for 2 -- does nothing to make D.C.'s case more appealing. And with the Baltimore Orioles only 35 miles away, city officials say they will need a lot more financial support from corporations to resurrect D.C. baseball.

"Mostly, the man on the street is supportive," said Luther Hodges, chairman of the board of the National Bank of Washington, one of the participating institutions.

"And the financial community has really stepped up support in setting up escrows," he continued. "They have been very helpful. But the real support is going to come when someone comes up with the big dollar to buy the team."

Mr. Pincus believes D.C. has "everything it takes. We're hopeful the major leagues will announce an expansion of two teams, and we're hopeful that we'll be one of them."

"Baseball failed Washington, Washington did not fail baseball," Mr. …

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