Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tour 2008: Nationals Park

Photos of Nationals Park and days 1 & 2 in Washington available on Flickr.

The "Tour-plus" continued yesterday when Erik and I visited brand-new Nationals Park, coincidentally on the 1-year anniversary of the main tour last year (June 20, 2007 in Madison). Despite booking our flights about 6 weeks apart, it worked out that we were booked on the same incoming and outgoing flights, and arrived at Reagan National Airport at around 10:30 pm Thursday evening. It was a really luxurious flight on Midwest Airlines, and featured fresh-baked cookies, picking out our Christmas presents in the SkyMall catalog, and a few rousing games of Go Fish. I for one was really tired and hungry after working the whole day at the firm and missing lunch, but when my friend Phil picked us up, we were promptly informed that he had left the bar to come get us and that we were going right back (he may have still had his tab open). So we drove to Alexandria, a Virginia suburb of Washington where Phil lives, and proceded to tie one on at a 7-day-a-week karaoke bar in Old Town called the Rock-It Grill, and then subsequently dominate some Triple w/ Cheese sammiches at a late-night Wendys - a great start to the trip.

Friday we had no specific plans and were in no rush to roll out of bed, and we finally arrived in the DC area around 1:30 to start our day. I'm a huge fan of the Metro rail system in the area and is one of the things I miss about living in DC, but being so far out of the city in Alexandria, it took over an hour to get into the city, as we had to catch a connector bus to the rail station first. We started the day with lunch at one of my favorite brewpubs, Capitol City Brewery, near Union Station. We then met up with Phil after his rough 3-hour workday and walked around the mall, snapped some awesome photos, and then went to some sort of rugby/soccer bar downtown to kill time before the game and meet up with my friend Lauren. The new stadium is located in SW, and for those familiar with the DC area, you know theres historically not a lot going on in this area of the city. So when we arose out of the subway tunnel at the Navy Yard stop, I was refreshed to see the street lined with proposed and upcoming developments posters. I still don't know if baseball stadiums necessarily make the best development catalysts, but thats another story. For now, we met our friend Frank at the gate and the group was now complete.

Nationals Park, much like the Reds' park or Turner Field, is very elegant in its simplicity. Its construction story is also an interesting one, as the team had far less time than the typical 32 months required to build a ballpark, and had the architects on site during the construction process, designing one wedge of the park as the wedge next to them was being built. This is evident when you go inside the park with some of the end sections that only contain one seat in the front row. The stadium is also the first LEED-accredited, or "green," ballpark in North America, and also has the largest LED jumbotron in the world. The stadium features all its seats very close to the field, very wide concourses with a decent food and beer variety, and about a 38000 capacity if I had to estimate. We had seats in the 300 level on the first base side , and with the Capitol and new development in the background, had one of the best views in the stadium for one of the worst teams.

The 14-inning affair against the Rangers ended so late that the post-game fireworks show was cancelled, but at least the Nationals pulled it out. Elijah Dukes went 5-6 in the game and hit the game-winning RBI, and starter Tim Redding went a strong 6 innings. Triple Crown candidate Josh Hamilton for the Rangers went 0-6 with 2 Ks, and staff ace Kevin Millwood gave up 3 runs over 8. Manager Manny Acta and the Nationals have clearly cashed it in for the year with Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero, and Austin Kearns all on the DL. We capped the night off with a few drinks in Adams Morgan, an area near where I used to live, and tomorrow its BBQ Festival, more ball, and the Pirate Bar.
park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 7
views from park - 6 (would be nice if you could see Capitol, but blocked by high rises)
view to field - 10
surrounding area - 3 (for now...lots of development coming)
food variety - 10 (they have brisket!)
nachos - 5 (really good chips, poor chip-to-cheese ratio)
beer - 6 (variety, souvenir cups, all beer the same price, but expensive)
vendor price - 5
ticket price - 5 (pretty steep for such a horrible team)
atmosphere - 4 (low attendance for the Nats, cancelled fireworks)
walk to park - 6 (development renderings, Exxon-Mobil protest bear)
parking proximity - 7 (across the street but expensive, most people take the metro)
concourses - 9 (wide lanes!)
team shop - 6

best food - hot dog
most unique stadium feature - massive scoreboard, press box on roof
best jumbotron feature - Teddy Roosevelt training for Presidents Race
best between-inning feature - Presidents Race

field dimensions - 336/402/330
starters - Kevin Millwood (TEX) v. Tim Redding (WAS)
opponent - Texas Rangers
time of game - 4:10
attendance - 30,359
score - 4-3 W
Brewers score that day - 8-5 L

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