Thursday, March 06, 2008
Cherry Blossom Trees, The Mayor & Metro (again)
"Each and everyday we are making progress and reaching milestones," said Our Washington Nationals Team President. "And, If you come back next week, we will be installing the leaves (on The Cherry Trees—laughter). Then, the week after, we are going to paint them pink. So, everything will be ready for Opening Day.”
Yes, Stan Kasten was in prime form--forging ahead with the latest update on New Nationals Park. Mr. Kasten, along with DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Principal Owner Mark Lerner, Chief Executive Officer of The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission Greg O'Dell, Board Chairman Matthew Cutts & Bill Hall of Winston & Strawn (and DCSEC Baseball Committee Chair) were all on hand in the Centerfield Plaza on South Capitol Street this morning to ceremoniously plant the final Cherry Blossom Tree at the new ballpark. 14 Trees in all--that many hope will give a distinctive Washington Flair.
"This combining of baseball and The Cherry Blossom Trees, which anybody that knows Washington, DC--also knows spring time is special here," stated Mayor Fenty. "They (The Trees) are synonymous with Washington, DC. Now, we have a new way of indicating and knowing when spring has arrived in Washington, DC. And that is the energy that is right here at Nationals Park--every year for decades to come from the end of March through early April. So, planting the Cherry Blossom Trees here at Nationals Park puts together two of our most fabulous Washington, DC spring time occasions."
With that--The Photo Op was on. Each invited dignitary was given a special red, white and blue bowed shovel and placed dirt over the roots of the final Cherry Blossom Tree. The Tree Plantings are a nice option. When they are fully grown--its safe to say that New Nationals Park will be instantly recognized virtually any season for its distinctive arbor look. Being different, makes news. And besides, who DOESN'T want to call any home run that reaches those trees--"Cherry Bombs".
So, what Corporation is going to Sponsor that obvious tie? You think Mr. Kasten has someone in mind? Since The African Queen is an avid gardener--she seriously wants to know.
After the ceremony--Stan Kasten took Mayor Fenty on a brief tour of The Kids Area under the East Garage behind Centerfield.
And immediately after that chat was over--I stepped in for a few minutes with Mayor Fenty. Opportunity was at hand, to ask him about the ongoing transportation and parking issues on South Capitol Street. But, not before Mr. Fenty admired by iPod.
Hey—Mr. Mayor can I ask you a few questions. (SBF)
“Sure, but what is this (handling my Ipod)?”
It’s my iPod with Belkin Recording Device. (SBF)
“An iPod with a recorder on it?”
Yes, just an attachment that you buy as an extra. (SBF)
“That’s AWESOME!! I need to get one of those."
You can find them at any Apple Store. (SBF)
"Cool, it's on the want list."
Anyway, I want to ask you whether The City has done everything, it could possibly do, concerning transportation and parking issues for Nationals Park? (SBF)
“I think The City has done even more than we would have thought originally. I also think the Lerner’s and The Nationals have done more than people would have thought. This (Nationals Park) is a very tight space. When this was originally conceived, everyone knew that it would be tough to get as much parking as you need to have people to drive to the stadium. Which is why--we have been so focused on getting the Navy Yard (Metro) finished and promoting the other two Metro Stations that are nearby.”
Are you confident Metro is up to the task? (SBF)
“Absolutely. Metro is definitely the way to go. I think the Metro at RFK (Stadium), used by both The Nationals and when The Redskins were here—worked fine. Metro handled that, and they can handle this.”
How about some of the residences in the surrounding ballpark district that fear they will be run over? (SBF)
"Yes, I know and we have listened. The Department of Transportation (DDOT) has done a really good job. We took the zone system we have over at RFK and made it one step better. We are going to give people (residents) parking passes for their families. We are making it so there are spaces in the commercial zone for those coming to other events in the area—beside the game down here. Honestly, I think we have thought of everything. Still, there is a logistical challenge just because of the site, but we knew that on day one. And I feel the people involved (in making everything happen) have probably exceeded expectations when it comes to parking. But please remind EVERYONE listening—to take Metro.”
The one aspect that might be lost on New Nationals Park’s construction might be the fact that the entire area is transforming before everyone’s very eyes. (SBF)
“It’s a tremendous transformation. It is so exciting. For far too many years in Washington, DC, there was not much activity in this area. Now, there is a ton of activity and this (New Nationals Park) is the highest profile in examples.”
Final Question. Will the DC United Stadium at Poplar Point—be a go? (SBF)
“It is a very strong possibility, but we are also kind of just saying we don’t have a deal yet.”
Would you rather see that park publicly owned or DC United owned? (SBF)
“The best proposal so far is to have the stadium owned by DC United, but there would be some public participation.”
Well, I can just see parking for a Poplar Point Stadium, helping out The Nationals and vice versa. (SBF)
(Nodding his head in total agreement) It would help out a whole lot. Anywhere in the vicinity will help out a whole lot.”
With that, Mayor Adrian Fenty headed off to his other appointed interviews. And I took the time to also ask Mr. Kasten about Metro and the story the other day concerning the possibility that fans might have to stagger their times leaving New Nationals Park after games.
In the paper the other day, there was a story that claimed Metro was asking fans to ‘stagger’ their times to The Navy Yard Station—which didn’t set well with some fans. Your thoughts. (SBF)
“Metro is committed to making this situation work. I have seen the schedules, the number of cars planned to bring fans to and from the ballpark. I have confidence Metro will make it happen. We are counting on them.”
“Metro has the situation well in hand. They have extra cars, both pre-game and post-game. Extra people (employees) will be standing by, not just here (Navy Yard Station) but at the switching stations. They are fully prepared to handle the largest possible crowd that we could have.”
So, you are not worried about the comment concerning fans staggering their times at the station? (SBF)
“No, I think that was misinterpreted. I know that we have been working real hard with Metro and they are taking this more seriously than we are. And, you know how important this is to us. This is EVEN MORE important to them to get this thing right. They are going to have extra mechanics on standby, just to take care of any last minute glitches. They have put a lot of time and thought into it, and I am anticipating a very smooth performance on Opening Night. And, it’s only going to get better from there.”
There has been some talk about daily paid parking, not just for season plan holders. What’s the latest on that? (SBF)
“We have been trying and are continuing to try. We hope to be able to do that by Opening Day. These (new) lots would be on the periphery of the lots we have already identified for Season Parkers. It is something we would like to do and we hope to have an announcement about some of that sometime soon.”
Have you sold out of Season Ticket Parking? (SBF)
“No, we still have some left and as we continue to sell Season Tickets, we are making whatever we still do have left—available for the new buyers.”
The March 22nd George Washington Game—not open to the public? (SBF)
“No, it’s an internal test with just a few thousand people in the building. The GW and St. Joseph’s people have received distributed tickets. We have some sales events going on that day. But, it really is a test event. There are so many things in this building that need to work and this gives everyone an opportunity to bring everything together.”
The stadium will be baseball ready—but the ballpark will continue to change as time goes on. (SBF)
“No question about it. Not just for the exhibition game, but The Home Opener will require a study to see what things we did right and those that we didn’t get right. And, really to find out what fans liked and what they didn’t like. We intend to change, modify, revise and improve every day. So, those will be important dates. I would have liked to have a month of tests before Opening Day, but we didn’t. Yet, we will still make it all work.”
Centerplate seems to have reached out to some local vendors? (SBF)
“I am very pleased with Centerplate, very, very pleased so far. This building is challenging because we have so many different people we need to cater to--the upscale people; we need to cater to our budget minded people; we have private events going on--some small, some very large. But, they (Centerplate) are handling it. So far, I am very pleased.”
Where you pleased with the first day single season ticket sales? (SBF)
“We sold 40,000 game tickets, which is pretty strong for us. As you know, we had just 10,000 (sales at RFK last season). Everything is moving in the right direction and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Were Opening Day single game tickets handled properly—as far as you are concerned? (SBF)
“The fact that it did sell out in six minutes—means two things. First of all—we were very pleased that we held back to sell to the public. But, the fact that we got them all sold that quickly means there are a whole lot of people, doing a whole lot of things—correctly. The glitches are inevitable when you have that much volume pouring in at one time—that is the same thing that happens for the big concerts. But, 90% of the tickets we did move that day were non-opening day tickets. So, an awful lot of people got serviced really well.”
Can you believe Opening Day is nearly here? (SBF)
“Three weeks away and we will get there!! But, it’s only one more milestone. The best is yet to come. Let’s not forget how important the product on the field is. And, I am even more excited about the progress there.”
With that my brief chat with Stan Kasten came to an end. Our Team President assured me that The Metro situation will work and that fans will be pleased with the service. Will their be glitches on Opening Night--you can rest assured there will be some. But, Mr. Kasten believes any outstanding issue will be worked out over time.
Finally, I asked him about The RFK Shuttle to New Nationals Park. The Final Policy is still being worked out. But basically--service will be available starting 90 minutes before each game--to and from Lot 8 of RFK Stadium. When that complete information comes available, I will post it.
PS--I had the honor today of wearing a Red Curly "W" Construction Hat. Unfortunately, I had to turn it back in. But, what a souvenir that would have made--especially with all the particulars autographs on it. Too bad--that helmet looks nice.