Part of my travels last week involved a stop at the Washington Nationals‘ eponymous stadium on Saturday, for the second half (or more like second 60%) of a twi-night doubleheader against the Pirates. It was my first visit to Nationals Park, and my verdict is…
Meh. The D.C. stadium bears more than a passing resemblance to its HOK/Populous brethren Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park — stacks of club seats and restaurants behind home plate, overpriced shopping concourse in the outfield (complete with Blue Smoke and Shake Shack, just like in Queens), kids’ play area — only without even those parks’ moderate charms. The design is supposedly meant to evoke the glass-and-stone aesthetic of Washington’s monuments, but when you replace actual granite with white-painted steel and cinderblocks, you just get drab.
The biggest problem, though, isn’t the paint job but the grandstand design. Here’s a photo from the upper deck down the first base line, which, being set lower than the behind-the-plate upper deck because there are no club seats forcing it skyward, should provide a decent view:
I was surprised to find myself lower vertically, but horizontally somewhere in Northern Virginia. The problem is in that lower deck, which you can see extends for something like 40 rows back before you get to the base of the upper levels. And because the upper decks have no overhang — apparently somebody thought that no one in D.C. in the summer would ever want to be in the shade — they’re set back farther from the action than Stephen Strasburg is right now. (Of course, I would have expected this if I’d read my own blog posts.)
Nationals Park isn’t an awful place to see a game: We ended up moving down to empty field-level seats along the left field line (ushers were thankfully far and few between), which only involved circumnavigating a handful of dead-end ramps and obtruding stadium clubs, and a fine time was had by all. Having been to RFK Stadium previously for a Nats game, however, I have a hard time seeing this as a big upgrade in terms of fan experience — let alone $686 million worth of upgrade.
And what of the much-hyped neighborhood redevelopment that was supposed to burst forth as a result of the new stadium? Well, right now it looks like this:
If you go to Harrison, New Jersey, you can see similar banners adorning similar chain-link fences outside the Red Bull New York soccer arena there. If nothing else, new stadiums are doing wonders for the Potemkin village rendering industry.