Nationals Stadium

A Model for Community and Workforce Development:
Washington Nationals Stadium

By any objective analysis, the project labor agreement negotiated by Washington DC for the construction of the Nationals' Stadium has been a success both from the standpoint of the City's social goals and its economic objectives.

From the perspective of District resident workforce development, three of five goals were exceeded or met.  Those goals that were met or exceeded have been vital to building a skilled workforce for the future.  These ambitious goals have been essential to the city's continued growth and prosperity.
  • In other words, the City sought extraordinary outcomes and it received a tremendous return on its investment.  A final report of the District PLA Task Force is due June 30, 2008.  But, with nearly all of the work already tallied and assessed, the facts are cause for celebration:PLA Goal: "50% of all apprentice hours worked shall be performed by DC residents."  As of February 29, 2008, 70% of all apprentice hours worked were performed by DC residents, or 261,235.08 hours where the target was 248,635.40 hours out of a total of actual apprentice hours of 371,938.65.
  • PLA Goal: "First source requests – 51% of all new hires must be DC residents.”  In fact, 51% of all new hires were DC residents on the stadium job. Of 1,789 new hires, 918 were District residents.
  • PLA Goal-Apprentices will perform "up to 25% of total craft hours."  In fact they performed 19% of total craft hours, consistent with the requirement expressed as a limit, or ratio, of 25% of total craft hours.
  • PLA Goal: 100% of all new apprentices hired must be DC residents.” The Task Force reported that 85% of newly hired apprentices were DC residents. Thus, while the goal on total apprentice hours worked was significantly exceeded, owing to limitations the Stadium Task Force identified, the goal was substantially met while the level was 15% short of 100%.  Nevertheless, of 412 new apprentice hires, 351 or 85% were DC residents.
  • PLA Goal: "50% of all journey workers hours shall be performed by DC residents." As of February 29, 2008, 26% of hours worked, or 424,989.35 hours were worked by DC residents.
It has been widely observed, by Task Force members and others, that during the construction of the Nationals Stadium there were limitations in the availability of the existing skilled workforce in the District.  It was a period of high employment, thus rendering it difficult to find journey workers not employed on other projects.  As such, that situation limited an otherwise substantial achievement overall.

There simply were no DC residents at the journeyworker level on the bench, or who could be referred by the DC Department of Employment Security in a period of such high demand.  Large numbers of DC residents were not only working on other projects in the District, but also on projects in Maryland and Virginia, in many cases at more favorable terms, who could not be required to transfer to the Stadium.

Overall, there can be no debate that, from a workforce development perspective, the Nationals' Stadium Project Labor Agreement hit a home run.

Further, the Stadium PLA contributed to the success of the District's capital stewardship responsibilities.  As stated by the nation's leading construction industry magazine, Engineering News Record, in a December 2007 cover story, the Nationals' Stadium job was DC's "fast ball."  From start to completion the job was done in record time, in less than two years. 

Further, Nationals Stadium has the distinction of being the first professional sports facility to be certified as a “Green Building.”  Perhaps most importantly, the job was performed on budget.  The District government’s own due diligence report, release in June 2005, predicted these outcomes if a Stadium PLA were negotiated.  Specifically, in the District’s Economic Impact Review of the proposed Project Labor Agreement, the following factors were noted:
  • "One major benefit of PLAs is the significantly higher productivity rates of union-trained workers.  Such productivity advantages, up to 17% according to one recent industry report, easily offset any minimal wage differentials.
  • With this PLA, contractors' needs for predictable costs and a steady supply of skilled labor will be met.
  • With respect to labor that is available in DC, there is no question that an excellent source of trained, qualified craft personnel is the union sector.  One major indication of this is apprenticeship training.
  • DC apprenticeship records show, for example, that the union trades represent more than 10 times the number of registered apprentices than all non-union programs combined.
  • Nationally, data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that union Building Trades apprenticeship programs train and graduate approximately 75% of apprentices in the nation and enroll and graduate substantially higher numbers of women and minorities.
  • In addition, thirty five percent of the contractors must be certified Local Small and Disadvantaged Business Enteriprises (LSDBE's).
  • The project, massive in size and scope and complex in design, must be completed in 24 months.  Timely delivery under this schedule will be extremely difficult-even with the local craft resources secured by the PLA.
  • The schedule challenges presented here are heightened by current labor market conditions and the intense level of construction activity in DC.  Another factor adversely affecting this already daunting schedule is the project’s location, which presents an additional, significant burden on the proposed schedule.
  • Compliance with the established project schedule is critical.  If the City fails to construct the Stadium in accordance with this schedule, it faces staggering cost increases and financial penalties up to $19 million per year, including payment for the cost of additional rental fees for the RFK Stadium; plus, loss of critical tax and fee revenues from Stadium operations needed to repay interest and ultimately principal on hundreds of the millions of dollars of municipal bonds."
In fact, as we now know, the District government’s predictions about the significant benefits of a PLA were realized---the Stadium was completed in less than the time required.  The workforce demands were met.  And, perhaps most importantly, the City got the triple bottom line it bargained for: it received on time, on budget the delivery of sparkling new stadium built in record time; it secured a Green Building certification; and it achieved substantial goals in the development a DC skilled workforce of the future. 

Additional information on the construction of the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium
  • The construction of the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium has provided more opportunity for jobs and advancement for District residents than any public project in the city’s recent history. Find out more at
  • The Keep a Good Thing Going report on the Washington Nationals Stadium Project, details how this project is a model for the Future. To read the full report, click here.