The new DC stadium has just won an award as a ‘green’ stadium, which is all to the good. But I don’t like it, and here is why.
1. It has no gravitas. Camden Yards has gravitas. It looks much too big to pick up and move somewhere. Nationals Stadium could be lifted by two strong men and moved to the other side of town. There is just no substance to it. It is a minimalist stadium.
2. It has no architectural style. It just looks like a stadium, no matter where you are when you see it.
3. I have had a visibility problem, although no one else seems to. It seems that, no matter where I sit, my view of the field is partially blocked by the head of the person in front of me. Because one of our seats is even with home plate on the third base side, I can’t see the batter. And that is, for me, significant.
4. The food is ball park mediocre, but more than that is tilted towards the expensive seats on the first floor. On the upper levels, you can have hot dogs, or sausages, or wursts, or fried chicken, or pretzels, etc. And a lot of French fries. OK, to be honest, you can also have a veggie burger, and a grilled chicken sandwich on a Wonder bun. And the ketchup is free. But it is very typical and average; even the kosher stand only gives you varieties of ground cholesterol to choose from. But if you are downstairs, you have Ben’s Chili Bowl, you have Red, White and Blue, you can make your own burritos. You have several decent choices. Same is true with beer. Upstairs, you can the normal American brews (no Budweiser), and some bottled imports and quality beers. But on the first floor, you have a grouping of high quality draft beers. And, if your seats are in the 400 level, you have no food or drink at all.
5. To get to the upper deck, you can take a narrow, overcrowded escalator, or walk the ramps. But to walk the ramps, you need to pack for an overnight. The slant is relatively slight (compared to RFK Stadium, for sure), and you must have ten (I did not count them) turns before you get to the upper deck. It takes forever. And because the escalators (until the end of the game, when they are reversed) only go up, you have no choice (other than small elevators) but to hike. To get good food or good beer, you lose a full inning.
6. The view stinks. Sure, you can see the Capitol if you are behind home plate (good for the TV cameras), but everywhere else you simply get (in addition to maybe a little of the dome, depending on where you are) an increasingly crowded and ugly low (10-12 story) skyline. You don’t get to see the very nice view of the Anacostia, unless you are one of the few to take the hidden ramps behind home plate.
7. The crowds at the end of the game are unmanageable. The reason: the old escalator problem. There just aren’t enough of them, and they come to a landing where you must make a 180 degree turn. One day, if the stadium is full, the people on the higher escalator will simply get trampled, because they won’t have room to get off it, while it keeps on going.
Good points: a few. The field is fine. The scoreboard is good. The seats are comfortable.
But that’s not enough, when it could have been so much more. How much was bad design and how much cost containment, I don’t know. For example, I bet that there were to be more escalators in the original design. And why do the urinals have hand flushing, when all other new facilities have electronic flushing, which is much cleaner, less prone to breakage, and more sanitary, if not to save a few dollars?
So at this point we have a poor stadium, and a poor team, and only the second might change.