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First Glance, Nationals Park or: We're Going To Need A Bigger Chili Bowl

Without me asking for them, the Nationals sent me two tickets to tonight's annual exhibition game versus the Orioles. Eric couldn't go, so Jenn eagerly accepted, just for the chance to see the new park. We drove to Foggy Bottom and parked, then metroed to the game.

Nationals Park

Getting off the Metro, I immediately spotted one problem. The "renovated" Navy Yards station only had two escalators leaving the platform. The RFK stop had three. So already I think speed of egress from the platform will be reduced by 1/3rd. (Note: the tail end of the Green Line train is where to be to have quickest access to the escalator) As we took the next set of escalators to street level, a female Metro employee yelled at people to stay to the right on the very uncrowded steps. Like, really yelled. She wouldn't let you walk past anyone. Just like D.C. Making things as inefficient as possible.

The station is half a block from the stadium, so you're inside before you know it. As soon as you hit the street, you can see into the stadium. It's not low enough to see the field, but you get a nice view of the area behind the first base line and home plate.

The stadium, of course, is as bright and shiny as concrete can be. The concourses are wide, and remind me of Jacobs Field. Sightlines are good from everywhere we stopped to look. There are a couple great standing room sections in right, center, short right field line, and behind home plate. There was a great view from behind a (large) handicapped seating area on the 400 level, inside the infield. There's also a section in center that appears to be unticketed, but has marble counters for standing and putting down your beer.

The scoreboard is huge, bright, easy to read, and has just about all the info on it you'd want and expect. There are auxiliary LED boards above the bullpens that have closed captioning of the PA announcer.

The stadium was very empty. Maybe about 50% full. Maybe people stayed away because it was bitterly cold, but the pricey seats were pretty bare. By contrast, we had the Uecker seats in the last row of section 420, with a lovely view of the Anacostia and the gravel factory. We stayed as long as we could, but restarting blood flow became an imperative, and we walked through the rest of the park.

We followed a crowd into the club level, which was nicely appointed, but not as ostentatious as the one at FedEx Field. The food in there seemed the same as the rest of the park. There were at least three bars, with views of the field, including one with a Homestead Greys theme, which I was happy to see. (I had very much wished that they would name the team the Washington Greys) Each of the bars had a theme, actually. The decor of the entire club level was dedicated to Washington baseball, naturally, but there was also a photo selection dealing with baseball and war, including one of Ted Williams heading to the Air Corps office.

But what about the chili? Well, it took me the better part of a half hour to get my chili half smoke from the Ben's stand. There were two lines, and when I got up there, there was a plethora of cased meat waiting to be served. Only one cheese dispenser though, which maybe was a bottleneck. I'm willing to write it off as opening snafus, but they were not moving people through very well. I won't go back if it's going to be that much of a pain in the ass every time. Jenn actually took almost as long to get her own hot dog, around the corner. Fortunately, I discovered the Nats Dogs stands on the 400 level carried the Ben's chili half smokes as well, though not the full menu. The chili half smokes went for $6.75, I think.

Now, on to what you really want to know:

Restaurant Stands: Ben's Chili Bowl, Hard Times Cafe, Red, Hot & Blue, Five Guys

Food: Dogs, brats, Italian sausages, chicken fingers, hamburgers, crabcakes, hamburgers with crabcakes on them, French fries, garlic fries, kosher dogs, kosher sausages, kosher garlic potato knishes, pizza, pretzels, cotton candy buckets, fish & chips, Cajun fish tacos and crabcakes, sesame seeds ($5!!)

Beer ($7.50 for a draft, but not sure if that held true for every stand): Leiniekugel, Pilsner Urquel, Bass, Hook & Ladder, Peroni, Blue Moon, Guinness, Miller, Bud, Bud Light

Also: cocktails & wine

All in all, a very nice stadium. It doesn't have immediate character like PNC in Pittsburgh. The Capitol out in center field is certainly an irreproducible sight. I can foresee many great nights of baseball in the park.


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