Papal Mass a Huge Success
Everyone who watched the news this past week knows that the pope came to our great city of Washington on his first visit to the United States. This was a great opportunity for many Washingtonians and others from around the country, but it posed a challenge for our good friends who run Nationals Park.
The crowd at the mass was similar to the crowd present at Opening Day this year on March 30, except even bigger. Not only was every single seat occupied, but there were an additional couple thousand seats set up on the field directly in front of the pope.
Metro was extremely crowded as well, considering it took my school group at least 10 minutes to get from the train platform at Navy Yard to the open air, only to be met by a plethora of vendors selling Pope Benedict buttons and Vatican flags.
One thing that the Nationals Park staff did learn from Opening Day, however, was that there needed to be many more metal detectors at the entrances to avoid lines stretching for blocks just to check iPods and wallets. On Opening Day, there were three metal detectors at the first base entrance, and at the papal mass there were at least 10 at the same entryway.
Only the concession stands on the lower bowl were open, creating extremely long lines (even longer than the ones we're used to). Of course, no one was eating during the actual mass (hopefully). But trust me, there were plenty of hungry Catholics who wanted a ballpark frank after sitting in the sun for at least three hours, and they had to wait 30 minutes to get one.
Getting back was also a problem, as there were plenty of protesters clogging the lanes to the Navy Yard entrance a block from Center Field Gate, forcing many churchgoers to take an exodus to the Navy Yard entrance about five blocks down from the stadium.
My group made the walk up to the Capitol South stop on the Orange/Blue lines and took that back up to our stop at Grosvenor-Strathmore on the Red Line. It was a beautiful day, if not too hot, and there were no crowds on the Orange Line that day at 1:30 p.m. If you like walking or just have a phobia of crowds, make the extra eight-block walk up to Capitol South for a much more enjoyable and spacious metro ride.
Overall, the Nationals Park staff handled the whole affair quite well. They learned how to handle a sellout crowd from Opening Day and did a pretty good job of getting everyone in and out in an orderly fashion.
The main thing I congratulate them on, however, is letting the pope using the team's dressing room to change in, because the way things are going, the Nats need all the blessings they can get.
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