Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Holiday Festivities at New Nationals Park
"So, are you going to change the blog name?" said Principal Owner Mark Lerner, laughing. "It's no longer Section 320." SBF replies--"No, I got to stay with my roots. The Nats320 name stays to commemorate three great seasons at RFK." Mr. Lerner smiles knowingly: "I hear ya."
Mark Lerner was on hand in the nearly completed West Garage at Snowy New Nationals Park for this afternoon's Holiday Lighting Ceremony. Included on the dignitary list was Our Washington Nationals Ryan Zimmerman; Michael Herrald--Regional President of PNC Bank; Matthew Cutts--Board Chairman of The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and The DCSEC's CEO--Greg O'Dell. All joined in thanking the many construction workers at New Nationals Park, this holiday season for their efforts. Following some opening remarks--A Christmas Tree was lit, as well as a Menorah, and Kwanzaa Candles.
Then, Mark Lerner and Michael Herrald handed out to every Construction Employee able to attend the ceremony, a very nice Red Curly W Christmas Tree Ornament. The Gift--Sparkling Red with White Curly W and PNC Bank Logo on the back. That ornament is a nice memento.
Later--Ryan Zimmerman posed with the many workers and signed their Ornaments or Construction Hats. Mr. Lerner and Ryan both then took the time to speak with reporters on hand. You can bet--I also got my few minutes in. Also, I was able to chat with Greg O'Dell concerning the parking situation with free shuttle from RFK that Our Washington Nationals previously announced for customers to New Nationals Park in 2008. Today--my three minutes with Mr. Lerner, followed by an update on the parking situation as it relates to Lot 8 at RFK Stadium for New Nationals Park. Tomorrow--A Few Minutes with Ryan Zimmerman. He has some interesting things to say--about his 2007 Sophomore Season, and the trades made by Our Washington Nationals over the past week. He was in good spirits--left hand still wrapped in a soft brace, after his hand surgery.
But, before the conversations with Mark Lerner and Greg O'Dell--I wanted to pass along an update on the FanFest/Winter Carnival which the team previously stated was on the agenda this winter. Although no specifics yet--the target date for this event will be the last week of January, location or locations, to be announced. And, don't expect a Huge Event that takes up an entire weekend just yet. With all the work that is being done to get New Nationals Park up and running--the scale of this year's event for fans, will be small in comparison to what Our Nationals wish to do in the future. Those are just the facts, as I was told.
Also--Ronnie Strompf--Vice President Clark Construction--Point Man for all the crews working the stadium site--told me that he hopes to have a Special Super Bowl Party for ALL HIS CONSTRUCTION CREWS at New Nationals Park for Super Bowl Sunday this NFL Season. On that date--everyone invited would watch the Big Game on the new HDTV Scoreboard in rightfield at the ballpark. Sort of a cool way to usher in the Screen.
With that--here we go with my brief chat with Mark Lerner:
“It’s a great time of the year and the opportunity to give back a little to those that are working so hard to make this ballpark come true. Just look out there and you can see that everything’s moving along well. This gives us another opportunity to recognize all the construction workers.”
“It’s the holiday season at this terrific place. I am excited about it (The Stadium). Everybody is excited about it. Those construction workers are doing an Herculean task on such a short time schedule. I always tell people that these type of construction projects take 30 to 32 months and these guys are doing it in 23 months. There are not many contractors in the world that can pull that off. Clark/Hunt/Smoot have been terrific.”
Construction is your life’s business. Have you ever had to work on a project with such a tight schedule? (SBF)
“A lot of our projects do have tight deadlines, especially Malls where you set a date and you have a lot of stores working to get done, The Mall to get done. So, yes, there is the same type of feeling—you don’t want to miss the date (The Opening). We’ve been through this before and we have our act together now.”
Talking to different people, the cooperation to make it all happen, as been good. (SBF)
“No question about it. We can’t say enough about the DCSEC (DC Sports and Entertainment Commission), The Mayors Office—helping us in every step of the way to make this happen. We all have the same goal in mind. There are always bumps in the road, but at the end of the day—we all want to make THE BIGGEST SPLASH WE CAN ON MARCH 30th.”
I can’t wait for March 30th (SBF)
(Laughing, happily) “You are not the only one!!”
Quickly, on the team. What do you think about the transactions over the past week—if you can talk about them? (SBF)
“I think our pick ups so far have been great. I am very excited about Lastings (Milledge). Elijah (Dukes), I think, hopefully, another Dmitri (Young) Project. Dmitri is obviously taking some personal attention to that situation himself. This is a great opportunity for The Nationals. If Elijah can turn his life around, and we are going to try to help him, his upside is incredible. His talents are amazing and hopefully, he will be our centerfielder for the next ten years.”
Its interesting that this team is not opposed to bringing in so many reclamation projects? (SBF)
“Well, as you know, we had such great success with Dmitri. We are going to try it again. We felt, after long discussions, it was worth taking a shot at Elijah and see if we can help turn his life around. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But, we are going to give our best effort to try to make it happen.”
All right, thank you very much. And, Happy Holidays to you and your Family.
“Same to you. And, say hello to the misses (Sohna) for me.”
And, now--a few minutes with Greg O'Dell--CEO for The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission.
On parking for Nationals Park—what is the latest on the use of RFK Stadium for patrons? (SBF)
“Right now, we just exchanged a proposal with The Nationals. Basically, we had a lot of good conversations with them. And, we just want to make sure everything is reasonable for both parties. In our last proposal, we recognized the flexibility for employee parking. We are going to have some additional parking for patrons if it is necessary, and demand warrants that.”
“But, we want to preserve our rights for other events that we are going to have, like DC United and other events. We need to maintain some flexibility. We are going to limit the parking to certain areas so we don’t have an impact on the community around us as well.”
That’s a point that many have asked. What would happen if DC United was playing a game at RFK. Many tailgate in Lot 8. Will Lot 8 be a part of this agreement with The Nationals? (SBF)
“Yes, it will. But that speaks to the flexibility we want. If we have a DC United Game, we need to have precedence for those events first. So, we are going to have to work out a compromise. And, The Nationals are onboard for that. They recognize that DC United is our Primary Tenant.”
Will that parking be free at RFK as originally stated? (SBF)
“That is their decision (The Nationals) in terms of how they manage their patrons. From our standpoint we need to make sure all the costs are covered and have a reasonable arrangement for us, should we provide the parking.”
On New Nationals Park. Once this facility is done—are you—The DCSEC basically handing over the keys to The Nationals? (SBF)
"Not necessarily. We are the landlord and they are our tenant. They are going to have events here. We have rights to some events here on non game days as well. We are responsible for the maintaining of the facility. As part of our bonds to actually have the stadium built—we have to have reserves to make capital improvements to make sure we maintain this facility. We are certainly involved in making sure the facility is up and running—but they (The Nationals) are responsible for operations.”
How about the DCSEC shortfall in revenue from The Nationals no longer paying rent at RFK Stadium. Is that going to affect your work? Will you still be a viable organization?
“Yes, we think so. Our future is still bright for sports and other events and other things from a sports perspective, which we want to pursue. It came to light that there is a shortfall this year. We are working on our business plan for the long term and we think we are going to be very viable."
That concludes the brief chats. But, before I end--here are a few more pictures from today's snowy grounds at New Nationals Park.
Left Field Line--Walkway Ramp
East Parking Garage