Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Maiden Voyage to Nationals Park

Last night was my first chance to visit Nationals Park. I had heard nothing but great things based on the various reviews of people who got sneak-peaks (like Josh) or went to opening day (like several others I know). However, four hours after I entered the stadium, I left with mixed feelings.
There are certain things about the stadium that are absolutely fabulous. Everyone who walks into the park will be completely blown away by the immaculate scoreboard. It is crystal clear and so hi-def that I almost spent more time staring at the scoreboard than the actual field. (Remember that I was watching the Nats and Marlins...not a lot of talent on the field. The game itself reminded me of the epic Baltimore versus Montreal game that many of these readers viewed back in 2000 or 2001). The sightlines in the stadium are all spectacular and the food choices are plentiful. However, the stadium didn't have the same cozy feel to it that others like Camden Yards have. Even though there were roughly 15,000 people dressed up as empty seats, I didn't feel like the rest of the attendees were into the game. It looks just awful that the priciest seats, those behind home plate which cost $300 per seat, were almost entirely empty. Yes, I know it was cold and there was rain in the area during the day but this is Game #2 people. It is the first chance to go to the game without having to buy season tickets. Maybe the DC-Baltimore area really can't support two teams and this was a $610 million dollar mistake.
My big criticism of the stadium is the transportation issue. I know parking is extremely limited. That's fine. Growing up in Boston, I am used to having to take the subway to the game. I tried taking the Nats Express which shuttles you for free from RFK Stadium. Normally this would be a good way of getting to the stadium without taking the Metro or searching for parking. Unfortunately, the shuttle bus lets you off 6 blocks from the stadium. This is much too far considering there is not much other traffic in the area immediately before and after the game. After the game, we spent 20 minutes walking back to the bus while passing, at most, 5 cars. There is no reason that the shuttle couldn't pick us up a few blocks closer to the stadium. If they could move this pickup spot closer by about 3 blocks, I'd be a much happier camper and more likely to use this option in the future. Being picky, the out-of-town scoreboard reported a few incorrect scores and they don't have in-game updates like they do at Camden Yards. Once the stadium works out the kinks, I am sure it will be a positive experience, but it left me feeling incomplete where it could have been a more special experience.

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