MLB wants the city to absorb the risk of disaster at the new stadium in DC. From today's Washington Times:
Hurricane Katrina and the fear of terrorism in the District are playing a role in talks between Major League Baseball and the city over the terms of a lease for the Washington Nationals' new ballpark.
MLB has asked the city to soften its demand for a guaranteed annual lease payment, in part because it wants the ability to pay less rent or eliminate it in cases in which outside events -- such as catastrophic weather or terrorism -- would force the Nationals to play in another stadium.
The issue of the rent payment has become one key sticking point in efforts to complete the lease agreement, which must be in place before Wall Street will approve the city's financing plan for the $535 million ballpark in Southeast.
Details of the lease talks were discussed by city sources only on condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing and at a sensitive stage.
The question of who bears the risk of something neither side can prevent is economically irrelevant. It's a wealth transfer, pure and simple.
MLB is engaged in last minute wrangling, trying to alter the contractual terms over a small probability event. None of this would matter, of course, if teams owned their own stadiums. But de facto, this will be the Nats' stadium. MLB is attempting to shift the risk that the stadium is rendered useless (read, the insurance payment) to the city, which it can, since the city was so nice as to subsidize the thing in the first place.
This is another current example (along with the Saints) of how teams in America's closed league system protect their share of league rent by separating their fortunes from the cities that serve as their hosts.