Nats Park: $309,445 Tix and Eight Facades
There has been such a rush of Nats Park stories in recent weeks that I have trouble remembering any more which details are new and which details are old, but the Washingtonian throws all of 'em into its massive profile of the new stadium. Even if the details that follow aren't new, they seemed the most noteworthy to me.
* The $5 game-day-only tickets, the author says, "may well be the best "worst seats" in baseball."
* The outfield wall has eight distinct facades.
"Baseball fans love controversy," the architect says. And they will get it.
The distance from home plate to the left-field foul pole is only one foot different from the distance to the right-field pole. But between the poles, the outfield wall bends to form eight distinct faÃ§ades. Sometime this season, a ball will carom off one of the outfield's funny angles and fans will debate how the fielder should have played it or what would have happened if it had been hit at another park. The misshape is not as dramatic as Tal's Hill in Houston's Minute Maid Park, a 30-degree slope in deepest center field with a flagpole in the middle, or the 37-foot green wall in Boston's Fenway Park. But it contains enough idiosyncrasies to allow Nationals outfielders--and their fans--to feel some sense of home-park ownership.
What would have happened if it had been hit at another park! Controversy! I'd say that, and the Clemens-McNamee feud, will likely go down as the two biggest baseball fan-loved controversies of 2008. Regardless, we'd love this club to provide as many facades as possible. Look at the last sentence of the story! Another facade!
* The fence's height is toggled, varying from 8 to 12 feet. As the mag notes, "a sprinting fielder may attempt to leap up an eight-foot wall to prevent the ball from going over. At 12 feet, the fielder may choose to back away to play the rebound." And if the fielder is named Roy Hibbert, odds are he will sprint directly away from the rebound.
* "Short walls along the first- and third-base lines virtually guarantee that some eager fielder will go into the stands in chase of a foul ball."
Nothing to note here, except that one eager Fielder--Prince--recently became a vegetarian, and is joining our call for plentiful and tasty veggie dogs at copious concession stands.
* "Architects visited the San Francisco park and took note of Bonds lounging on a La-Z-Boy in the corner of the rectangular clubhouse with a TV on and his 'do not disturb'' aura keeping intruders and even teammates at bay. The scene convinced them to do something different here."
That something being never to sign a bona fide superstar!
No, no, they actually designed the clubhouse in a pleasing oval shape, so no one can hide. But the clubhouse does contain "oversize mahogany lockers (with locked compartments for cell phones and wallets), and flat-screen TVs," and players will be required to hold weekly games of charades and Cranium in the middle of the oval.
* The pricey tickets are, in a word, pricey.
Life is good for those seated in the Presidential Seats, the first ten rows behind the plate, which start just 12 feet above the catcher. Patrons are welcome to a free buffet spread out on white tablecloths in a dining area under the lower deck. The Oval Office cash bar offers premium drinks. The walkways are tiled with imported stone. At one edge of the private bar, a wall-size window looks down on a batting cage where players warm up before games or before at-bats. Another window provides a panoramic view of manager Manny Acta's press-conference room so patrons can listen to the manager talk to reporters after games. Patrons get programs and notes for every game. And they get a parking space in one of the lots next to the stadium.
The seats are available only for season-ticket holders. At $300 a seat, that's $1,200 a game for a family of four, or $97,200 a season. The Nationals require a three-year commitment, with price increases each year, meaning it would cost a family of four $309,445.
For which that family of four could, instead, purchase some foreclosed house, or more than half of D.C. United's 2007 Opening Day roster. Also, there's something incredibly honest and pleasing about the phrase "the Oval Office cash bar."
Thirty-three more days.
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