The Lerners, the current owner of the Nationals since mid-2006, did not have input into the structural design of Nationals Park because the team was owned by MLB when the stadium was initially designed — and working with an initial construction budget of around $600 million led to corners being cut, and there was little to no consideration of the views outside of the stadium.
There is a good chance the Lerners won’t even own the Washington Nationals when the 30-year lease expires on Nats Park after the 2037 season. The 20-year anniversary is a few years away, and you have to wonder if the stadium will get an extreme makeover like Camden Yards got at their 20-year anniversary in 2012.
Speaking of Camden Yards, one of the best baseball parks, the 30-year lease had come to a close. That stadium is owned by Maryland taxpayers, and the current Orioles ownership was the fortunate recipient of a great stadium that was built before they took over the team. After many attempts to get a lease signed for an extension — it looks like it got done yesterday with terms and favors not readily known. The Orioles owners, the Angelos family, probably got a heck of a deal if the rumors are factual.
The District taxpayers owns Nationals Park — and while the stadium is okay, it consistently ranks in the bottom-half of MLB stadiums, and many times in the bottom-10 in baseball by some stadium snobs. What can you do to make a stadium that cut so many corners better? At some point, tear it down and start over.
The stadium just got new LED lights and is getting a new centerfield scoreboard at the halfway point in the lease. But the stadium never got the bells and whistles and charm that many of the newer stadiums have. Also, who knew the southern part of Washington, D.C. was in a storm belt? In 2023, there were 32-games threatened by inclement weather. That is nearly 40 percent of the games — and while some would blame it on “climate change” — the average baseball fan hates travelling to games to sit through weather delays. Chances are the weather delays are not going to get better in the future.
Threats of bad weather cost a team in ticket sales. On the current stadium, the cost to add a retractable roof to Nats Park would be cost prohibitive at this point in time. But a new open-air stadium with a retractable roof for the next baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals would be wise (in my humble opinion). It would give the team the ability to do concerts during the winter and host other events — and never have to worry about inclement weather. And of course one of the prerequisites for hosting the Olympics is to have roofed stadiums. While those retractable roofs are generally an eye-sore from the outside, as they look like giant airport hangars, they feel just fine from the inside when the rain is pelting down.
After watching the past week’s press conference as the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards are looking for a new arena in Alexandria, Virginia — it is not outside the realm of possibilities that the Nationals start looking in 10-years for a new home for their baseball team. Who knows. We shall see. That would give the team a chance to build a stadium that would rank in the Top-10 in baseball and try to do better than the Rangers new ballpark that has a retractable roof and got a No. 13 ranking from Sports Illustrated. Good for the reigning World Series champs.
What would be optimal is build a new ballpark on the current site and have the Nationals play their home games in a temporary spot such as whatever the Commanders use as their new home. That would be a temporary inconvenience and just redo a new and improved Nationals Park on the existing site.
One of the common complaints was that the views, that Nats Park had when it was first built, of the US Capitol building and the Washington Monument were obstructed when the apartment and office buildings were erected. Maybe you turn the stadium and build it taller to give unobstructed views of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge to the south and the US Capitol to the north.
One of the features of PNC Park in Pittsburgh is the clear views of the Roberto Clemente Bridge that you can see from behind home plate at Pirates’ games. The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in DC might be a better looking structure. Start early enough, and work on a world-class design. The next iteration of Nationals Park, if done right, could take the team into the next century. This is for future generations, but something that maybe some of us will still be around to enjoy in 15-years.