Name: Nationals Park
Location: Washington, D.C.
Opened: 30 March 2008
Architect: HOK Sport
Cost: $693 Million
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
I think there are two possible ways to tell a Nationals Park story. Let's call it two angels sitting on my shoulder, a positive/optimistic one, and a negative/pessamistic one. They'll both be chiming in throughout this profie.
The (pessimistic) story of Nationals Park is to think what it might have been. Baseball was coming back to the Nation's Capitol! DC is filled with iconic architecture that a new park could pay homage to, try to live up to, or at least give a fantastic view of! Like Busch Stadium frames the St. Louis arch, imagine a ballpark that showed both the US Capitol Dome and the Washington Monument beyond the outfield wall!
The optimistic side wants to think what Nationals Park could become. By the early 2000s, south DC (south of 395/695) had seen better days. The civic-minded ballpark planners were hoping that by putting Nationals Park there, it would encourage a redevelopment and revitalization of south DC. Which is no doubt happening. Instead of views of the capitol and Washington Monument, the omnipresent sight beyond the outfield walls of Nationals Park -- virtually uninterrupted since it opened -- are construction cranes.
Left to talking explicitly what it is at the moment, you're probably going to get some yawns.
But, hey, let's give it a shot! For one thing, as of this writing, Nationals Park is home to the reigning World Series Champions (says the optimistic angel). Of course, the 2020 postseason has begun, and the Nats did not even qualify for the expanded postseason, where more than half of the teams in MLB (including a couple with losing records) have advanced (replies the pessimist).
Inside the park, you have what you'd expect. Good sightlines to the playing field, especially from the wide concourses, although the best views and placement are given to the wealth of premium seating options. But the park does have that "neighborhoods" feel, where you get a different experience in different parts of the park, which is a very "baseball" thing to have, even if there are no real "wow" moments.
The exterior is of the "modern" school that includes Petco Park, Great American Ball Park, and Target Field.
Steel and glass, with white stone elements, it says more "stadium" than "ballpark", but with Camden Yards less than an hour away up 295, "retro" was probably not going to play here. The pessimist says this looks a little cold and industrial for baseball, but the optimist appreciates a new take on ballpark architecture which was, by the late 2000s, in danger of becoming too derivative.
(It's impossible to overstate the building boom baseball experienced in the first decade of the new century. Thirteen new parks were opened between 2000-2010, and if you extend that a couple of years on either end, fifteen -- or exactly half -- of the ballparks were opened between 1998 and 2012.)
In the end, I personally feel that Nationals Park is a missed opportunity. The Capitol and Washington Monument are a mile and a half away. They are within view of Nationals Park (albeit you need to be in the upper deck and turn your body about 145 degrees away from the playing field.) It's a shame that -- for whatever reason -- they were not included into the overall ballpark plan.
Still, it's baseball in our National Capitol.
It's baseball. That is a good thing.