Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Nationals Park Update

Just over seven months and counting. Time is of the essence, if Our Washington Nationals are going to start the 2008 Baseball Season at New Nationals Park. With that in mind--it was time for a construction update on the New Ballyard being built on South Capitol Street. So, reaching out to the Construction Firms of Clark/Smoot/Hunt--The New Stadium Contractors--Smoot's Director Of Community Affairs & Business Development--Chrystal Stowe, willingly agreed to give The African Queen and I a tour. We met at The Construction Entrance--24 Potomac Avenue, SW. Handed Safety Helmets and Reflective Vests, we were off on our jaunt.

No doubt, more and more--This Giant Erector Set is looking like a Baseball Stadium. In fact, construction has advanced so far--the grading for the baseball diamond is currently being worked on the playing field. Much has been completed since my original tour last March and subsequent visits. Although, so much more needs to be accomplished.

The Main and Upper Level Concourses are basically complete. The Concourses are WIDE!!! From anywhere walking along the concourse--you could see the playing field. The Openness is such a drastic contrast to the narrow dinginess of RFK Stadium's Concourses. The Built in Food/Vendor Stands are being completed on the outer walls of the concourses--leaving the inner concourse ring open for viewing.

The Locker Rooms are taking shape. A Circular Design, with multiple offices and training rooms attached. Nothing was funnier than seeing these two beat up cheap press board lockers carrying the names of Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Schneider. Apparently, on a recent visit to the ballpark by the players--Schneider told the Construction Crews he would pay extra (JOKINGLY) for a larger locker. The Workers decided to have a good time with that comment--as you can see in the photos--Brian's locker is twice the size of Ryan's. Its funny.

The Gigantic HDTV Scoreboard Frame in Right Field is nearly finished.

The Centerfield Restaurant is taking shape. And, you can view where Our Washington Nationals are going to plant grass with a Curly "W" Design in centerfield. The Restaurant Outside Seating is the only seating in the ballpark which will be red in color.

And, of course--the main seats, blue seats, are being put in place--at a rate of 2,000 per week--along with the walk railings for the stairways to the seats. At the bottom of each aisle--the railing contains a plexiglass retainer wall to prevent anyone who might trip coming down the stairs--from falling over to the level below. But, just to be clear--that plexiglass panel is only in the front row of the walk aisle. It does not crossover to the first row seats of every deck. No one's seat is behind that clear 40" High Retainer Wall.

Enjoyable it was to view each and every blue seat having a Navy Curly "W" caste on its side frame. When you sit at New Nationals Park--you know who the Home Team is--Our Washington Nationals. Additionally, each seat is numbered with a Silver Baseball Plate that stands out against the Blue Seats. Very Nice actually, little touches that fans can appreciate.

Sohna and I found the seats comfortable. And, it was important to see how high the front row railing stood in relation to the seats. At RFK Stadium, the upper deck railings partially block your view in the first two rows. Being only 5' tall, Sohna found it no problem to see above the new railings. A Good Sign.

On the Main Concourse, we came across this Painting of Washington Senators Great--Walter Johnson--on a column. Chrystal informed us that this piece of art is a test. Apparently, throughout New Nationals Park--Columns will be dedicated to Former Washington Baseball Greats and DC's History in the Game. Honestly, this looked good. If every single column around the Main Concourse depicted this theme--it would LOOK TERRIFIC. I have NO DOUBT--many fans would enjoy these works. The Walter Johnson Artwork STOOD OUT--from a distance. The BEST SURPRISE OF THE ENTIRE TOUR.

Standing on The Club Level--the first row was slightly further back than the Mezzanine Level at RFK Stadium. Maybe 10 feet tops. Not much of a difference. Each subsequent Higher Deck was slightly set a few rows back of the level below. The Two Tiered Suite Level that surrounds the infield--places the Infield Terrace Deck Higher, but not necessarily farther away from the action on the field. That's a good thing. Standing on Club Level--back row--the overhang slightly blocks high popups from the last couple of rows. The HIGH DOLLAR Suites are also starting to shape.

At 1PM--The Sun was hanging up and behind the first base side of the stadium. The 3rd Base side was in the sun. We were not there long enough to get a sense of how The Sun will track during day games. Too bad--as its an important aspect to consider for any seating assignment during a typical Hot, Humid and Sunday Washington, DC Summer Day.

The Double Deck Stars & Stripes Club was very inviting. Glass Panels opened up the area out toward The Anacostia River. Nothing claustrophobic about this place. If the amenities are finished as planned--this Club, along with the promised Presidents Club are going to be FABULOUS. A Glass Enclosed Front for The Presidents Club looks out over the field. Construction was going on inside that part while we were there--so we could not view inside.

But, this Opportunity to tour The New Ballyard gave us the very first chance to walk up to each and every level of stadium. First Thought--and its a BIG ONE--THAT UPPER DECK IS STEEP!!! This Ballpark may well be smaller than RFK Stadium, and more compact--with the seats closer to the field, overlapping each other, But--when we stood on the UPPER DECK--Right Field--last row--looking toward Home Plate--it looked A MILE AWAY!! Maybe it was the OPENNESS that made the distance look vast. Wow!! I am going to have to walk up to The Yellow Seats at RFK in Right Field next home game to compare. As I haven't been up there much in 2007. Maybe it was a illusion--from sitting so close to the field in Section 320 at RFK Stadium. Really, I am not sure--but, nothing was more noiticeable in contrast--than that view. Being afraid of heights, Sohna was holding the railing tightly--walking up and down the aisles.

What I know will not be liked--is The Press Box by the Working Media. Easily, it sits at the highest point in the New Ballpark. Charlie & Dave, along with Bob and Don--are going to be looking straight down--overlooking the field. The Media is nowhere near as close to enjoying their placement, as well as, the friendly confines enjoyed at RFK Stadium. Being in The Media--I just know it--they are not going to like their view. The Entire Time The African Queen and I were up there--I could only think of that Bob Uecker Commercial with him sitting in the cheap seats. A Two Level Press Box with Camera Set Ups on top. The Camera angle could not be the best.

One thing good about that Press Box--Its Views of The Capitol Building, The Washington Monument and some of Our Nation's Capital's Finest places--could clearly be seen. Washington National Airport and The Washington National Cathedral--clean lines of sight. Just Terrific to see from that spot. A HIGHLIGHT OF THE TOUR.

The Home Dugout for Our Washington Nationals does not have the largest roof. It looked short--in comparison to others at newer ballparks--Interesting. It did not look wide enough, front to back, to handle The Nat Pack or Screech during Dugout Entertainment.

Other Pictures of Note:

The Right Field Wall where an HDTV Scoreboard is to be placed.

Our Washington Nationals Hot Tub Therapy Room. That Locker Room WAS HUGE!! Sohna and I LOVED THAT LOCKER ROOM!!

Service Walkway under the first base stands.

Computer Light Grids--Said Already To Be Set to Shine in the Exact Right Spot, the moment they are initially turned on.

The Faux Limestone. Looks Good.

And, The On Site Parking Decks, under construction.

I hope you enjoyed the PHOTO Tour. Chrystal Stowe, who was a nice lady and a fine hostess, has promised to invite us back, at a later date, to Update the Continuing Construction of New Nationals Park. Sure, I understand that not everyone will be pleased with the layout of the New Ballpark. Some will not like their seating assignments. Some will miss the convenience of RFK. But, I honestly got to tell you--New Nationals Park is shaping up nicely. This Ballpark will provide more entertainment than just the ballgame itself--far different than provided currently at RFK Stadium. As much as I LOVE THE OLD BALLYARD on East Capitol Street--I am looking forward to that very first game in April, 2008--on South Capitol Street.


Anonymous said...

SBF: Your blog is special because you post all the things that every Nats fan wants to know in a very professional and thorough manner. Thanks for the update!

Anonymous said...

The photos are great, SBF! Thanks for posting them. Did you get a chance to see what the view of the Capitol will be from the upperdeck along the firstbase side?

Screech's Best Friend said...

fav61 & Mike Edgar--Thanks for the kind comments. From the Upper Deck--Terrace Level and Above along the first base side--The Capitol Dome is CLEARLY SEEN over the left/centerfield wall of the stadium. Take a look at one of the very last photos-the long shot of the new parking deck being built. You can see the Dome just to the left of 20 M St.SW. That is The Lerners just completed building. That Building sits on the corner, so not much can be built west of it. The Washington Monument is also visable from the Upper Deck, first base side. In fact, from the Upper Deck Third Base Side--you can see The Capitol. Currently, you can also see the Dome from spots on the Main Concourse--but as was discussed among Chrystal, Sohna and myself during the tour--an eventual buildout North and East of The Stadium will block that Capitol View for those at the concourse and below--No Doubt. Considering that NO BUILDING can be more than 13 Stories in DC--the Upper Level should be safe basically forever on the GREAT VIEW. I Just Can't Image each and EVERY TV GAME not using those views. Its going to be special and make the stadium, unique.

paul said...

There is one tall building that does seem to block the Capitol Dome if you're in right field, it seems. The building is just beyond the parking decks in one of the last pictures posted. Is that the Lerners' building??? I know as I glance at the ballpark on the freeway, driving by, that that building is the one building that blocks the view of the stadium.

I got the impression from the Nats' literature that almost all of the seats will be in the sun for most of the games, which I'm not happy about. But there's nothing to do about it until we really see how it works next year. I guess I'll stock up on the zinc oxide.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on the new ballpark. One question, though. What about the beverage cup holders for the seats? I look forward to those every time I have to move my bag because of a spill close by.

An Briosca Mor said...

Hey SBF, thanks for the great photo tour. It really does get my blood pumping for the new park!

In regard to your concern about the view from the upper deck being a mile away, maybe in addition to checking out how that compares with the yellow seats at RFK you could also go to the online panoramic view tool for the new park and see how the view from that section as shown in the computer simulation matches up with reality. I know I relied very heavily on that computer simulation (which is actually quite cool) when I was trying to figure out my choices for the questionnaire. But I did wonder at the time how close the simulation was tracking with what the real view will be from the seats. So it would be interesting to get your perspective on that if you have the chance to check it out.

And BTW, when I saw you up on the big screen playing the PIN game with Clint last week, it looked like there were yellow seats behind you. Did you go upstairs to play, or am I just confused?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Paul: The building over the parking deck is The Lerners Building. Most of the seats will be in the sun--but how it changes throughout the course of a day game, I don't think anyone has a clue yet.

Janet: Cup Holders are coming. They are added to the back of each seat, and to the railing in the front row. The Seats come before the cupholders--it was explained to me.

an briosca mor--No we were not in the yellow seats, standing just to the left of my regular seats in Section 320.

On the panorama--very comparable. Sohna and I actually discussed this and took example pictures we could compare. All in all--very close. A very fair rendition

SenatorNat said...

Are there going to be two parking lots - one more or less in back of the right-field scoreboard? And are they going to be faced with murals as depicted in the virtual show, I believe, and on this year's schedule? Great tour. The columns depicting Walter Johnson, etc., are unique and fabulous!

Trust in SBF. All Good.

Jarrett said...

It certainly is beautiful.

Hopefully they build on this late season success to open it up right.

paul said...

I'm not a scientist, but I think if you look at the side-by-side maps of the stadiums on page 12 of the relocation guide, you can sort of figure out where the sun is going. Just take the sun situation at RFK and rotate it 60 degrees counterclockwise. For day games, I think this means everyone is in the sun at the beginning of a day game, and then the sun moves around a bit clockwise, with no relief at all for the 3B side, and probably no relief at all for most of the lower deck. For night games, I think the 1B side might be spared at the beginning of the game, but again most of the stadium will be cooking at the beginning. I think that famous disappearing ellipse of sun would be somewhere in foul LF upstairs (yikes, the cheap seats will really be cheap). As the summer progresses, I think this all moves a bit clockwise. LF may be a really tough field to play next year. I looked up Yankee Stadium, my boyhood hangout, and sure enough the alignment is the same. And left field is the sun field there.

Anonymous said... high up is the upper deck?????? Do you think its to high????

Screech's Best Friend said...

Natsfan7--I am not sure if its too high, as I don't usually head up to the Upper Deck at RFK. I was told today by someone in management with The Nationals the pitch angle of the Upper Deck is the same as every other park built of late--no difference. For me, it was high--and that's because its unfamilar territory. We always set close to the field. So anything farther away looks strange. I am going to take a look at the upper reaches of RFK on the next home stand and compare. One thing for sure--from those seats you are looming down on the playing field.

SenatorNat--not sure about the murals, I have a followup coming with the Project Manager. I will ask.

Paul--one thing definite about the sun--at 1PM on a summer day--the sun is BEHIND the Cantilever Top and Light Grid of the stadium on the first base side--providing Shade on the first base side--the back half--not the front.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, perhaps the biggest complaint about this stadium's seating is that the upper deck seats are much farther from the field than at RFK. If you measure horizontally, I think the distance was similar. But when you add in the new height, because they are stacked on top of the two levels of suites, it puts them much farther from the field than at RFK.

It makes me sad to hear this. The biggest complaint about the White Sox' stadium is that the upper deck seats are so far up there, you feel as if you are miles from the game, and hanging out up in the wind. It makes it very impersonal, like you aren't a part of what's happening at all. I hope the Nats' stadium doesn't have this feel.

Dave said...

With regards to the upper deck, several people have pointed out elsewhere that RFK's upper deck is extraordinarily close to the field, even in comparison with other 1960s ballparks. So we might be a bit spoiled by our current situation.

SBF, I'll be really interested to read your comparisons of the last row, upper-deck RF seats at RFK with what you saw at Nationals Park. I've sat in the top row of section 550 in RFK, and it's a heckuva distance away from the infield, I can tell you.

It sounds like the steeper rake of the seating rows should have the effect of moving the top rows closer (horizontally) to the field than they would otherwise be. I think I'd rather look right down on the game (like the press will do) than view it from afar but at a lower angle.

I greatly appreciate your comment about the overhang on the club level seats. How does this compare with the upper rows of the 300 sections (such as 320) in RFK? Many of those higher 300-level rows in RFK have pretty obscured views.

This is the best all-around fan blog in Nats Nation, IMHO! Thanks for the great work!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Dave: Thanks--In The 300 Section at RFK, rows 9 and Higher have blocked views. In fact, most all those folks can't see the scoreboard or any pop up--which would kill it for me. In Row 4 of Section 320--extreme popups down the left field lane--disappear momentarily. We have come to learn that if the baseball disappears--in all likelihood it will go foul. Anything in play--we see. But, Our View is REALLY GOOD--I am partial--but, one of best in the house for the price. We are just high enough to get a good overall view--but still close enough to be apart of the action and have the player hear us yell.

The Club Level Overhang is much lower at the New Ball Park. The last few rows at New Nationals Park is at most--10 FEET. The Mezzanine at RFK is most likely 30 feet above from row 1 of any Section 300 seat--never getting lower than approx. 20 FEET--BIG DIFFERENCE. If I was sitting in Club Level--I would not want the back two rows--to much to pay for a possible lesser view. The Infield Terrace--directly above that section and the suites--is a FAR BETTER CHOICE for the price. Sohna and I have actually laughed how those $20 Infield Terrace Seats contain Section 320--in the exact same spot in relation to the Nats Dugout as we enjoy at RFK--just on the first base side, instead of third.. For a briefest of moments--we considered moving there. But, we wanted to be a bit closer.

Oh Yeah--this coming homestand--I am heading to the Yellow Seats to Compare. Count on it!!
Hope that helps some.