Nats Park Game Day Experience

Nats Park door to door time commitment:

Back in 2005 one of the best parts about having the Nats back in town was the ease of getting in and out of RFK and the short game times for the Nats, catching a game was about a three and a half to four hour time commitment. At Nats Park this year that ballooned up to over five hours on average, way too long, it was particularly bad in the playoffs. For fans who have to work in the morning the Nats really need to look into methods to reverse this trend. With the Nats in first place for the second half of the season I was having trouble selling my extra tickets for even $10 each and I blame both increased traffic issues along with slow pace of play. If this keeps up next year I’m at the point of cutting back on my usual 25+ game a year attendance.

Nats Park Traffic

Gridlock getting into a lightly attended game in August

The issue of drive time is largely out of the Nats control, with Metro rail work both traffic and wait time to get in and out of the parking lots has become unbearable. South Capitol Street slowed to a crawl for a half hour before first pitch and the lines to get into the lots could take up to 20 minutes. Then getting out of the games the cops had left turns blocked, leading people to wind around the neighborhoods trying to get on the right highway home. I don’t have any brilliant answers here, but the Nats response of doing nothing was insufficient and a large reason why the stands were so empty in August and September.

Nats Park Traffic

Gridlock getting out of same lightly attended game in August

Ideally games should average about two and a half hours, it was not acceptable that the Nats were routinely going past 10:30 on weeknights. Way too late. This is a league issue but is particularly a problem for the Nats. The team has way too many guys who step out of the box between pitches. I’m not sure if this is due to the new pitching coach or if the guys are watching each other and creating a culture of constantly resetting their gloves and stance but it has to stop. I’d like to see MLB make a rule that the batter is in the box when he steps in for the first pitch, at that point the pitcher is free to pitch as soon as he is ready for the rest of the AB, batter beware. Hitters are free to call time out and the umps are free to deny the request. This would then allow a pitch clock to be implemented from the point that the ball hits the catcher’s mitt.

Long lines everywhere:

The Nats again showed during the NLDS that Nats Park is not prepared to handle large crowds, the lines were terrible. They get away with inefficient service during the season because they usually have crowds in the 20-30K range but for sold out games they get overwhelmed. I know that metal detectors are mandated by MLB but the process of getting into the ballpark is way too slow, part of the issue is casual Nats fans who aren’t familiar with the process. Part of the problem is Nats fans bringing enough bags to stay the weekend. The team needs to figure out how to get people in the gate quicker.

The service at the food stands, with some exceptions, is terrible. Employees standing around, cashiers who don’t know how to work the machine. My favorite is going on hot dog night, handing over my money, and then being told to wait while the dogs are being cooked. I didn’t bother with food during the NLDS, people who left their seats were missing two innings.

No easy solution for this, but the Nats Park walkways around the concessions areas are too narrow, too many people waiting in line blocking the way of too many people circling around to get to their seats.

The bathroom situation during the NLDS was unacceptable. If Baker wasn’t making at least two pitching changes you missed a full half inning to take a piss break. They can’t add more bathrooms but they need to upgrade the ones they have. Either squeeze the urinals closer together or bring in troughs Wrigley Field style.

Nats Park lines

Nats Park line for NLDS game 2

Around the Nats Park:

DC United is preparing to build a new stadium near Nats Park and one of the initial complaints they faced was that the stadium design had no retail on the exterior, it was designed to draw people in to spend money inside rather than visiting neighboring businesses. Sounds kind of like Nats Park, as opposed to Verizon Center. Fortunately the city was able to get the soccer club to correct the issue. (Nice write up here, including a mention of how the United plans to operate a new stadium while blacking out 81-90 prime spring-fall days when Nats Park is open.) Up the street I’d like to see the Nats take similar steps to improve the ballpark area, targeting those ugly parking garages.

As soon as the Nats 2017 season ends I’d like to see the B garage leveled and converted to underground parking. The resulting space would be turned into a “tailgating” area similar to the Bullpen bar. The Nats would use this area for pre-game concerts, with a Nats Dog stand, a t-shirt stand, corn hole, and a moon bounce. They’d have kids days, college nights, and any number of theme parties corresponding to the ballpark promotion. I’m envisioning a scene similar to what they have at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

NLDS Nats Park Street Band

Great band playing before game 5, not a great street scene

Once the first underground lot is completed I’d turn the C garage into underground parking as well and put in a brew pub in its place. A nice sports bar that would not only be open for game days but it would be the spot for Nats fans to meet up for road games. With giant TVs, plenty of outdoor seating, and Nats giveaways. Also a great spot to watch the west coast games after the Nats put another curly W in the books.

On a couple of related notes the Nats are currently requesting from the city permission to add ten large digital displays all around the Nats Park exterior, similar to what was installed outside of the Verizon Center. Meanwhile they are pushing back against Bardo Brew Pub’s request to open up a beer garden across the street from the ballpark, next to the river. One proposal would improve the fan experience, one would increase team profitability.

Capital Community News has very nice coverage of the team’s request to add exterior signage. The local residents opposed the request due to the distraction for drivers and the extra light shining into the nearby homes. All of the sample pictures are of Nats players but the critics are probably right that the Budweiser logo will appear just as often. As a fan I don’t see any harm in the signs but they don’t add any value unless there is actually something to do outside of the ballpark other than to walk into the ballpark.

Nats Park Signage Budweiser

This Bud’s for One Pursuit

Via the City Paper, the Nats have filed their opposition to the Bardo Brew Pub opening along the river front based on pedestrian safety and traffic/parking concerns. They are oh so genuinely concerned that a bar that will hold a few hundred people will have the same sort of issues as the ballpark holding tens of thousands (as opposed to their preference that fans buy their beer inside the ballpark). Bardo is suing the city on grounds that as a third party the Nats should not have a say in the licencing of a competing business.

Nats Park Bardo Beer Pub

Unused brew works, very sad

One last item, from the Washington Business Journal, is that Verizon is losing their cell tower closest to the ballpark and looking for space for short term and permanent replacements. How about Nats Park? Verizon service is terrible during games. Why not put up the tower on top of the Red Loft (Bud Light Loft)? They could wrap it with a sign for whoever they get as the new naming sponsor for the ballpark. Or better yet use it to hang the World Series banners.

One Pursuit of Nap Time in the Nats Park RF Terrace:

Nats Park NLDS Sleeping

Just a guy sleeping during 2016 NLDS game 2

Nats Park Nap Zone RF Terrace NLDS

RF Terrace NLDS nap zone 2014 game 2

James Taylor playing Nats Park next summer:

Buggin’ Out is wondering what’s up with the classic rock groups, country artists, Taylor Swift, and One Direction pictures hanging on the walls in Nationals Park

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