The Thrill Is Gone -- What's Left?
This weekend will test the new stadium for me.
Not a test of traffic, or concession lines (which are amazingly speedy when only twenty-thousand fans show up!), but the most fundamental test:
"Do I like Nationals Park"?
After three visits, my over-the-top enthusiasm has burned off. That's to be expected. But leaving on Wednesday, my friend described the place as "an anonymous amusement park, with a vague baseball theme." And that description struck a nerve.
As much as Boswell was right that the park "fits in" to Washington, an attendee doesn't really have any sense of Washington, or anything else for that matter.
The skyline is effectively obliterated; it could be in Rosslyn, or outside Houston, Texas. If you crawl on your knees or walk through the more obscure parts of the park, you can see the Capitol Dome dimly glowing in between parking garages and undersold condo buildings. The riverfront is totally wasted; the park doesn't sit by the river, it just overlooks concrete trucks sitting by the river. Ben's, Hard Times, Boardwalk Fries, and Gifford's lend a little sense of place, but the many concession outlets are largely anonymous and unimpressive.
Admittedly, I'm spoiled -- one drive down Constitution Avenue would give any stadium "Monument Envy," and nobody really considered the Mall a suitable site for the park. And I'm spoiled by being able to walk from Ben's Chili Bowl to the Lincoln Theater, or to the 9:30 Club, or to Bohemian Caverns. Nationals Park can't compete with architectural splendor or historical significance, and the neighborhood is too newly-developed to offer up its own charms. Yet. But St. Louis integrated its new park into the city perfectly, just as C*mden Y*rds [I don't wanna say the name 'til Angelos sells the team, lest anyone go up there] fit perfectly into that city. Character abounds in each. I worry that our shiny new park may offer little character.
Let's hope I'm just bummed out by the losing streak.
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