COURTESY OF MCT CAMPUS
D.C. finally has a permanent home for its baseball team. Three years after relocating to D.C. and 36 years since they had a home stadium to call their own, the Washington Nationals played their first game at Nationals Park on Saturday.
The cold and breezy late March day could not keep 20,000 of the Nationals’ faithful fans from getting a sneak peak of their team in the new stadium, 24 hours before the park’s nationally televised grand opening.
The Nats beat the visiting Baltimore Orioles 3-0 in their final spring training game of the season, but the final score was secondary to the experience of christening the team’s new 41,000 seat home.
Nationals Park is at the center of the city’s waterfront redevelopment project, just off the banks of the Anacostia River in Southeast. The park reflects the city’s architecture with its glass and cement fa?ade. Despite major public and city council opposition to the $611 million publicly financed project, it was finished on time.
Former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams was instrumental in bringing the team to the city when he committed public funds to building the stadium. Four years ago, MLB demanded that whatever city was awarded the former Montreal Expos would have to build the team a new stadium. Williams was heavily criticized for acquiescing to all of the league’s demands.
The stadium deal was in trouble during the 2004 City Council elections, as three council members who had supported the stadium were ousted by Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Kwame R. Brown (D-At large).
Current Mayor Adrian Fenty was one of the project’s biggest detractors during its planning stages. However, after the stadium was built, he gave in despite his objections and became a supporter of the project and threw out the first pitch at Saturday’s game. Some have speculated about whether Fenty’s opposition to the park helped propel him to the mayoral seat, including writers at the Washington Post.
Despite the difficult process of getting approval and funding for the stadium, it finally happened. After three years of playing baseball in their interim stadium, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, the Nationals were finally awarded their new home.
Brackett Smith, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that while the stadium is an upgrade from RFK stadium, much work needs to be done to make it a better experience.
“I liked it a lot,” Smith said. “It’s a real nice place, a much better setting than RFK, but they need to do more things to make it have more of a D.C flavor.”
While the stadium is new, the steel and cement design of the stadium has some fans longing for the brick stadiums of baseball lore. Eric Pajonk, a junior in CAS, said he prefers the older style stadiums.
“I like the old brick stadiums. I’m not really a fan of the new cookie cutter style stadiums,” Pajonk said.
Despite that criticism, Pajonk still liked the new ballpark.
“I think it’s a gorgeous stadium,” he said. “It didn’t have a big ‘wow’ factor, but it’s definitely an upgrade and a great place to see the game.”
From some seats in the stadium, fans can see the Washington Monument, the Capitol Dome and the Anacostia River.
Smith’s said his favorite part of the stadium was the spacious concourse and the breeze from the river.
“The breeze was terrible because it was cold today, but in the summer when it’s hot, that breeze is going to be amazing,” he said.
While having a new stadium is nice, winning games will determine whether Pojank will continue to support the Nationals at the new stadium, he said.
“The product on the field will dictate whether I go to see this team or not [in the future],” he said.