With no fans at baseball games, the best seats in the house are at these luxury rentals near stadiums

Wealth

View from a luxury rental at West Half, overlooking Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.

Pat Pugliese | CNBC

WASHINGTON — When Dr. Anthony Fauci throws out the ceremonial first pitch of this truncated baseball season Thursday night, players, coaches and umpires will see it in person at Nationals Park. But no fans will be in attendance, as part of an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Yet certain tenants at West Half, a new luxury rental apartment complex boasting units with views directly overlooking center field, will be able to watch the World Series champion Nationals take on the New York Yankees “in person,” too. The building, owned and developed by JBG, has seen strong demand since it began leasing.

“Our residents are very excited about game day,” said Tiffany Butcher, executive vice president of residential and  management at JBG.

Butcher couldn’t say whether demand had picked up due to Covid-19 and this fanless baseball season, since the company is public and hasn’t reported the most recent quarter’s earnings yet.

At One Cardinals Way in St. Louis, however, a new $120 million ballpark-side luxury rental building owned in a partnership between the St. Louis Cardinals and The Cordish Cos., leasing jumped in recent months for units overlooking the baseball field. The 29-story tower is part of a $360 million mixed-use neighborhood called Ballpark Village, with retail, restaurant and residential properties. It opens in August, just as games begin at Busch Stadium. Rents range from $1,400 to $7,900 per month.

“Your typical new construction apartment building opens about 10% to 15% leased. We’re 65% leased today, a few days before the first move in,” said Nick Benjamin, Cordish’s vice president of development. “We’ve leased well on pace with our budgets and projections through Covid-19, and now, we’re really starting to see momentum pickup as we get close to the start of the season.”

Ballparks have become increasingly popular as anchors for new real estate developments in recent years. Once situated just on the edges of most cities, ballparks are now the center of new residential, retail and restaurant complexes. Developers and cities alike are using them to rehabilitate parts of their cities, like Washington Navy Yard and The Battery Atlanta.

Jeff Stauffer rents a new apartment overlooking Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Donovan Lloyd for CNBC

The Atlanta Braves began playing in their new Truist Park in 2017, as a mixed-use development went up. It includes rental apartments, restaurants, a large hotel overlooking the park and even an office building for Comcast’s regional headquarters. Cortland, an Atlanta-based developer, manages the residential properties.

While its apartments do not offer a full view of a game, the development is using its proximity at least to try to lure fans back.

“The Battery got down to about 90.1% occupancy, today it’s 95.1%. It was 96.2% before [Covid-19],” said Mike Altman, chief investment officer at Cortland. “We are happy to see it turn. We think the Battery as a whole is going to be very interesting because there are plenty of restaurants reopening around it.”

The Battery and Ballpark Village are using outdoor screens to show the games to socially distanced fans. They are hoping fans will be lured not only by outdoor dining and drinking, but by the camaraderie of cheering on a team together, even if just outside the turnstiles of the stadium.

Jeff Stauffer, an avid Cardinals fan, is about to move into his apartment at One Cardinals Way, where he can watch a game not only from his own unit, but from a large communal terrace on the eighth floor. He expects his popularity to get a boost.

“I welcome that. We’re friendly people,” said Stauffer. “I’m afraid I’m going to probably make a lot more friends, now that we have this view, but it’s all good.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to it.”

Stauffer and other tenants overlooking the field pay about a $100 premium per month over comparable floor plans, but that’s a lot cheaper than season tickets. While developers are undoubtedly taking a hit from the lack of actual in-person fandom at the stadiums, they do say they are doing better with leasing than other luxury towers that are seeing occupancy fall during the pandemic.  

“One Cardinal Way is going to be one of the only places in the entire city and one of the few places really across the country where you’re going to be able to watch live baseball,” said Cordish’s Benjamin. “That’s going to be a huge marketing asset for us.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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