Mr. Bozzuto goes to Washington

BozzutoA developer who has built several high-profile apartment projects in the Baltimore area testified about the vitality of that market before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in Washington on Tuesday.

Tom Bozzuto, chairman and CEO of The Bozzuto Group in Greenbelt, told members of Congress that the housing rentals are a $1.1 trillion industry that have 35 million residents today.

Bozzuto’s testimony was part of a presentation by the National Multi Housing Council and the National Apartment Association.

“In an environmentally sound way, we help build vibrant communities by offering housing choice, supporting local small businesses, creating millions of jobs and contributing to the fabric of communities across the country,” Bozzuto said.

Bozzuto’s company has built dozens of apartment developments in Maryland. It opened The Fitzgerald apartments on Mount Royal Avenue in midtown in 2010, The Arbors at Baltimore Crossroads near Middle River and is a partner in a new community in west Baltimore, The Uplands.

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London tourism falling down, falling down …

Do we really want to take another shot at the Olympics for Baltimore-Washington?

The U.S. Olympic Committee has already decided not to bid on the 2020 Summer Games, so the next opportunity would be for 2024, and that decision will be made in five years. In the meantime, consider this bit of news that has come out of London on Monday:

Tourism in Great Britain actually was down during the just-completed Olympics, the Associated Press reported. A British tourist trade association that surveyed its members said 88 percent found their business during the Olympics was down from the same period last year. Businesses said the number of tourists dropped 10 to 13 percent from 2011.

The games didn’t even fill London’s hotels. They had 80 percent occupancy, which is their normal August rate.

Plus, the visitors to London weren’t getting out and about — at least not in the tourist spending sense.

“The people who came to the games really didn’t do very much sightseeing, didn’t do very much shopping, didn’t do very much eating out,” Miles Quest, a spokesman for the British Hospitality Association, told the AP.

The overall drop may be a case of the Olympics driving some people away.

“A lot of people thought London would be very busy and very expensive at this time,” said Mary Rance, chief executive of UKinbound, the tourist trade association. “We weren’t completely surprised, but we were a bit disappointed that [the Olympics] seem to have had an impact around the U.K., not just London.”

It could be a case of people heeding the words of that sage, Yogi Berra, who once supposedly said: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

‘National’ disaster — D.C. lowers ballpark ticket prices…again

It’s only getting sadder for the woeful Nationals. For the second year in a row the team’s pitiful attendance (that are actually worse than the Orioles!! Seriously!!) has caused the team to try and meet their fans halfway.

At least as far as their pocketbooks go.

I guess that’s what you get when you build an expensive ballpark with expensive seats…then a recession hits and the team plays just as bad its new home as it did in its old one.  At least at RFK, you could get some decently priced seats on game day — even if the food was more of a science project than edible.

The Nationals announced yesterday that they would be reducing the price on more then 3,000 outfield seats (they lowered the price on 14,000 seats last year) for the 2010 season. The lucky section this year is in the Outfield Reserved, where all tickets will cost $24. (Last year they cost $24 to $30.) Seats in the Lower Right Field Terrace will also be reduced, from $18 to $17.

The remaining seats are under a price freeze, as the team did last year. Since the day the park opened in April 2008, the team has only lowered ticket prices. Isn’t it supposed to go the other way?

Are Baltimore and Washington baseball doomed?

Let’s face it — I don’t care how loyal you are or how much you love the history of baseball in this region, it’s not a good week to be an Orioles or Nationals fan.

Let’s start with the O’s: on Tuesday, Sports Illustrated came out with its best and worst owners list and guess who came in as the worst owner in baseball? You got it, our very own Peter Angelos. Since the lawyer bought the team for $173 million in 1993, the team has had two playoff appearances and posted a .486 winning percentage. Sure, the team’s value has more than doubled to $400 million, but one might argue the O’s could have been worth a lot more than that now.

Here’s what SI had to say: “[In 1993, the team] was a year removed from its Camden Yards debut with a stacked roster Angelos allowed former GM Pat Gillick to build….Then Angelos began his notorious meddling, firing popular manager Davey Johnson, burning through another five managers, killing trades proposed by his GMs and stripping down one of baseball’s proudest franchises.”

But I’d argue the Nats have it worse. Owner Ted Lerner, who bought the team in 2006 was named the fifth-worst owner in baseball. The team has actually gone down in value by $44 million from its purchase price of Continue reading

Nationals president spills the beans

Nat’s president Stan Kasten is a sports business writer’s dream come true. Or at least he was when he told ESPN Radio’s Philadelphia affiliate he welcomed Phillies fans because they fill up the seats.

Here’s what he said on the Jody Mac and Harry Mayes Show:

“I think Philly’s our best, closest National League rival. We always have great games with them here, because there’s so many Philly kids in college here. So we always have great, enthusiastic crowds, and we hope you all come back again. We have an Opening Day here Monday, we’d love for all our Philly fans to come down, because I know it’s gonna be so hard to get tickets in Philadelphia this year.”

I can only imagine the looks of horror on the Nationals PR team’s faces as Kasten just basically said what everybody suspects is true but you’re never supposed to say. When you’re running a team business, of course you don’t necessarily care who buys your product — just as long as they are paying enough for you to make a profit. But under no circumstances are you to acknowledge that truth to the media.

I remember asking a similar question last year to the Orioles spokesman Greg Bader about Yankee and Red Sox fans, and he indignantly whacked away the notion with all the force of a Nick Markakis home run:

“We have never marketed or advertised to visiting teams’ fans,” Bader said last year. “At no time have we worked to encourage visiting fans to come.”

Take note, Kasten.

Flocking to the Metro

Washington’s Metro system has had two of its highest-ridership days on record this week – despite the lack of Nats games or special events.

Yesterday, 823,000 people road Metro’s trains, making it Metro’s sixth most popular day. The day before Metro had 812,000 riders and a new No. 10 for the list.

It’s no big surprise – officials were expecting to greet more riders as gas prices climb. (At the Shell station outside my building in Bethesda, gas was $4.35/gallon for regular unleaded this morning … which would encourage just about anyone to ride Metro.)

Still, the real record-breaking day for the transit agency could be today – National Dump the Pump Day. As if commuters need more encouragement, transit officials around the country are pushing public transportation today especially.

And whether or not you take Metro, you can still enter WMATA’s contest to guess today’s ridership. If you win, you’ll get a Metro card worth $100.

Even if you sold it to a friend – hey, that’s still a tank (or two) of gas. For use in a carpool, of course..

JACKIE SAUTER, Web Editor

Way to go Post!

I may be breaking some ancient newsroom commandment by praising another newspaper, but among the six Pulitzer Prizes won by the Washington Post was one for public service for its series of stories exposing the mistreatment of veterans at Walter Reed hospital.

As the son of a veteran, and someone who has witnessed the shoddy treatment that this nation’s vets can be prone to receiving at the VA, I can’t help but be extremely happy for the Post.

In an age where many Americans will somehow find time to hear the latest news about Paris or Britney (we’re on a first-name basis at this point), yet be too busy to pay attention to boring things like war and choosing the next leader of the “free world,” it’s nice to see a newspaper get rewarded for fulfilling its natural — and vital — role as society’s watchdog.

FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Redskins to join Ravens in search for new head coach

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By now you’ve probably heard: Joe Gibbs has resigned as head coach and team president of the Washington Redskins.

<<The Redskins said in a statement that Gibbs will remain part of the Redskins family and serve as a special adviser to owner Dan Snyder. Gibbs was to discuss his decision at a 3 p.m. news conference at Redskins Park.

The Redskins will begin a search for a new coach immediately. Among the certain candidates are two former head coaches on Gibbs’ staff, Gregg Williams and Al Saunders.

Gibbs went 31-36, including 1-2 in the playoffs, after emerging from NFL retirement and his NASCAR career to sign a five-year, $27.5 million contract in 2004. He had always maintained that he intended to fulfill the contract, but the 67-year-old coach wavered from that stance Monday when asked if he would return for the final year of his deal.>>

Reactions?

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Top: Coach Joe Gibbs walks on the field after the Redskins lost 35-14 to the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL wildcard playoff game Saturday, Jan. 5 at Qwest Field in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Do you have an obligation to help others?

Did you read Marc Fisher’s column in Sunday’s Washington Post, “Helping Those You Can, Because You Can“?

I did, and I have to say, I found it moving. For those of you who didn’t, Fisher writes about two successful businessmen who each sponsored a class of poor schoolchildren in D.C., providing them with emotional and financial support through college.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Twenty years ago, [George] Kettle had stood before sixth-graders at a Southeast Washington school and announced that “I’m the whitey from Virginia” who promised to pay whatever it took to send every child in the room to college.

Many kids at Winston Educational Center that day had little idea what Kettle’s commitment really meant, but two decades later, the students to whom Kettle devoted hundreds of hours and $600,000 are more successful than not. A few ended up on the streets, but most are managers, teachers, police officers.

Is piece uplifting? Definitely. But that’s not what struck me.

Ed Wilczynski (who took up the practice after Kettle) told Fisher that “people who know how to get things done have an obligation to step in when the system isn’t working.”

Do you agree? Do successful businesspeople who can “get things done” need to take control of a floundering educational system?

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor 

Baltimore: Middle of the drunken pack

Well, it could have been better, but it could have been worse. Baltimore is the 46th safest drunken city in a recent survey by Men’s Health magazine. Not bad out of 100.

The survey, which is being reported by KNBC in Los Angeles, looked at drunken driving, liver disease, and other alcohol-induced crimes. But seriously folks, I have never felt that Baltimore is a city that drinks to excess, though we are prone to a certain type of brew.

However, some of our neighbors are more extreme examples from the survey. Richmond, Va. was the ninth best, while Washington was the eighth-worst.

So what do you think? Is Baltimore really that much safer than Washington when it comes to alcohol consumption?

ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer