WiFi at Nationals Park?

Michael Solem

No one can deny that Nationals Park, for the moment at least, is the talk of the town. But the stadium falls short of being a true "hotspot."

At Monday night's game, my buddy Dave and I became increasingly frustrated with the vacillating home plate umpire, whose strike zone seemed to sway as much as I did leaving the game (thanks to a Grounds Crew commenter who pointed out where to find Yuengling on draft).

After watching one too many pitches called strikes at Guzman's ankles, I began thinking about whether free public WiFi would enhance the Nationals Park experience.

I might have, for instance, logged on and followed the game on MLB.com's GameDay simulation, which shows the placement of each pitch in relation to the strike zone. Armed with this knowledge, I could yell insults at "Blue" with impunity.

Other possibilities entered my mind. For example, whenever the Mets come to Nationals Park, Nats fans could simultaneously project this video on our laptops and PDAs, and provide our own between-innings entertainment. Who needs Clint?

After a quick Google search, it seems that AT&T Park in San Francisco is the only MLB stadium offering free WiFi (if anyone knows of others, please post a link in the comments area).

According to the Giants' Web site:

In addition to Internet access, the Giants WiFi Network features the Giants Digital Dugout, an interactive application developed by the Giants, Birdsall Interactive and Pervasive Services. The Giants Digital Dugout is available exclusively at AT&T Park and has been designed to enhance the "fan experience" with unique content, including:

• Highlight Videos
• Real-time MLB.com Stats
• Interactive Games
• AT&T Park and Local Information
• Team Information

Sound good? On the one hand, I think a similar service at Nationals Park would be a big hit. Then again, Hill staffers and K Street lobbyists might be well advised to remember what happened to Drew Barrymore in Fever Pitch!

So, Grounds Crew readers, apprise me of your thoughts: Should the Lerners transform Nationals Park into a WiFi hotspot?

By Michael Solem  |  April 9, 2008; 6:35 AM ET  | Category:  Michael Solem
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Get thee behind me!

If you need to surf the Web to be entertained at a ballpark, you might as well stay home.

If journalists covering the game need Internet access to improve their coverage, set up a wired network in the press box.

Where do I go to contribute to a fund to reward batters for hitting line drives into laptops?

Posted by: swheelock | April 9, 2008 8:28 AM

What What In The But

Posted by: Fushezzi | April 9, 2008 8:41 AM

This is a great idea for two reasons. One is that more and more smartphones such as the iPhone, sniff for Wifi connections. When they find them, the surfing experience is much better. Second is that if you are using your Wifi I have an increased chance of catching that foul ball!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2008 8:46 AM

I think as WiFi devices become more prevalent, it wouldn't hurt at all to make the stadium a hotspot. I'd like it to look up stats instantly, as well as check scores of other non-baseball games. And maybe check e-mail on occasion. (P.S. I love Clint!)

Posted by: JC | April 9, 2008 8:50 AM

Persons bringing laptops to the ballpark should be escorted to the highest seats, then forced to throw their laptop out of the park. Cellphones and PDAs should meet the same fate. The only allowable electronic gear should be a small (approximately 3.5" x 5.5") transistor radio, with earphone, to listen to the play-by-play. Also, the playing of music over the PA system should be limited to 2 minutes total per game. The playing of the national anthem is not counted toward the two minute total. Finally, the only song permitted during the 7th inning stretch shall be "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". No "Sweet Caroline", no "God Bless America".

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2008 8:50 AM

I hope your laptop gets hit by a foul ball because you weren't paying attention. And then I hope the warranty guy you call is a life long diehard baseball fan and has to get his supervisor to take your call because he's too busy laughing at you.

So no, I vote no WiFi.

Posted by: ncc | April 9, 2008 9:05 AM

It's not quite the same thing, but the Seattle Mariners have a service for Nintendo DS owners.


As for wifi at Nationals Park, I fully support it. Although your plans for viewing the pitch placement and then booing the umpire might be a minute or two behind the actual game.

Posted by: Shawn | April 9, 2008 10:02 AM

This is the best idea I've heard since New Coke.

No. No. A thousand times no.

Posted by: AlexVa1 | April 9, 2008 10:14 AM

"...my buddy Dave and I became increasingly frustrated with the vacillating home plate umpire..."

Are you sure he wasn't oscillating? ;-P

On subject: I see both sides of the argument; there's lots of downtime during a baseball game, so it's not like you'll be missing the action if you use your smartphone to check basketball (right now) or football (in the fall) scores during an inning or half-inning break. (Of course, our crew -- and particularly Brady -- needs that time to go to the restroom, given how much Yuengling we'll be consuming.)

ON THE OTHER HAND, anything that would make it easier for already-workaholic Washingtonians to get their heads out of the game in order to edit one last paragraph of the latest press release or see what Reuters has just written about their Member should be discouraged. Were you with me & Brady two seasons ago (in our old RFK seats along the first-base line) when that middle-aged couple sat in front of us at a lovely early-season weeknight game? The man spent the ENTIRE game (or the 6-7 innings before they left) with his head buried in what looked to be a deposition. His wife, meanwhile, leafed through what seemed like a French-language version of Us Weekly. I don't think they even talked to each other!

Posted by: Rob | April 9, 2008 10:41 AM

Absolutely not! Giving already-anal Washington people the chance to work at the game -- c'mon, you know it won't be to check ball scores -- is dump. Those people and their laptops should be tossed out of Row N in Section 420 (don't want to bother the real fans in Section 401).

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | April 9, 2008 11:34 AM

I think I have to agree with Fushezzi on this one.

Posted by: Pstew | April 9, 2008 11:35 AM

The Nats do have free WiFi in the Park. Check out SSID "Guest" among others in the building. Surf away...

Posted by: Chris | April 9, 2008 11:35 AM

Are you sure the park doesn't have wifi? I thought I saw another commenter mention it somewhere.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 9, 2008 11:49 AM

As for the arguments against it, I have a similar story to Rob's.

Season ticket holder couple sat in front of us last year, and I kid you not, she did her sudoku and he did his crossword through the entire game. They hardly looked at the game or at each other the entire game, for every game. Except one, when they had a guest with them.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 9, 2008 11:52 AM

Although my PDA occasionally detects a WiFi signal in Nats Park, I think it's a "stray" signal and I usually cannot join it because the signal is very low. Also, the A-Z guide to the park has no mention of Internet access or WiFi:


Posted by: Michael Solem | April 9, 2008 12:05 PM

I picked up an aircard to use with my laptop for two primary reasons. One - to work on the Metro. Two - to be able to skip out of work "early" (you know, 5:30), and still be able to wrap something up between innings if I had to. It beats not going to the game at all. Baseball is unique (well, maybe hockey, in a different vein fits this too) that you can soak up the atmosphere - the sounds and smells, in addition to the sights during game play, which is happening approx. 25% of the time. I totally agree that I'd be annoyed if I was sitting in the third row of the lower deck and someone was on a conference call, but with 20,000 people at a game, I don't think I'd be bothering anyone in the upper deck if I had a laptop out for an inning or two.

Posted by: Joe in SS | April 9, 2008 2:35 PM

Nothing is more annoying than holier than thou purists. Who cares how the game "used to be." Nobody goes to a baseball game to sit and just watch baseball. It is a social outing or a way to get away from the office. Of course there should be wi-fi. I would LOVE to come to a day game with my laptop and take in a nice day, a baseball game and get some work done.

What do these people care if I am watching the game, working or scratching my ass. Either way I have paid the ticket and I am not stopping you from having a good time.

Posted by: SS | April 9, 2008 2:54 PM

Get thine head out of thine keister. Pretty soon your pacemaker shall be wifi ready. Luddites.

There isn't wifi at the park because large-scale, community wifi is expensive to implement and maintain and ... drum roll .. give away. And we all know that giveaways are limited to creepy posters, mini bats, and bobbleheads of a utility infielder. Everything else, you must pay cash.

Posted by: particle man | April 9, 2008 3:51 PM

State of the Art= $45 > no Wi Fi

Figure it Out

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2008 4:38 PM

State of The Art=$450 Million > No Wi Fi

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2008 4:39 PM

I wouldn't mind it, though I wouldn't use it probably.

Now I did go to a Caps game @ the Verizon Center where I tried to find a WiFi network to use my iPod touch to see what the Caps pairngs/lines were going to be for the game. I found a couple networks but they were all locked up though.

Posted by: nadir | April 9, 2008 4:40 PM

My Wi Fi cost me $40 bucks

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2008 4:41 PM

SE Has the best baseball stadium money can buy and the worst schools the nation has seen.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2008 4:42 PM

It could come in handy on Friday - watching the CAPS on slingbox while at the NATS game

Posted by: JS | April 9, 2008 4:50 PM

I was able to use Wi-Fi at RFK.

Posted by: Ed | April 9, 2008 5:25 PM

I can see both sides of the WiFi issue. I'm somewhat of a baseball purist, and know that I'd wind up having to use it for work -- which would stink, but it's the price you pay for trying to sneak out early to go to the ballpark as often as possible.

On the other hand, sometimes when you're sitting next to someone with a beer in your hand, talking about baseball, wouldn't it be great to be able to look up stats/rosters/historical facts then and there? Plus the ability to check the other games' play-by-play, along with hockey, basketball, and football?

I think I'm sold.

Posted by: Nats Season Ticket Holder | April 9, 2008 6:02 PM

On balance, it's not a bad idea. In a related vein, the AT&T cell service at the park seems to be abysmal, particularly the availability of the EDGE data service (used by Blackberries, iPhones, etc.). Have others experienced this?

Posted by: Sec. 107 | April 9, 2008 6:10 PM

I'm in favor of Wifi, so I can get updated stats and follow other games simultaneously. A perfect way to pay for this - get rid of obnoxious, cocky announcer Clint and use his salary to pay for a few wireless routers.

Posted by: jeffgopack | April 9, 2008 6:42 PM

there is WiFi at Nat's park - if you're anywhere near the suites (I'm right over them), I have fantastic access... this includes the entire gallery level as well as the lower seating bowl in the infield. The SSID is "Guest".

It's "LameFi" in some regards - it allows web browsing (good for your use of watching mlb.com), but doesn't allow geeks to use their favorite tools like.. VPN, SSH, or even POP or IMAP e-mail. But free's free, and that works for me.

What really works well is WiFi to the metro site for train status... time your departure!

Posted by: drew | April 9, 2008 6:52 PM

If they do end up having WiFi at the game I cannot be held responsible for any jacking at my seat during boring games.

Posted by: Fushezzi | April 10, 2008 9:47 AM

Anything that will distract a few extra fans and allow me to snag extra baseballs is a wonderful thing. Bring it on.

Posted by: The Baseball Collector | April 16, 2008 9:32 PM

The purist in me says "no way," but after taking a deep breath, I say "why not?"

1) The true crackberry addicts have their devices out through the whole game already. This won't change their behavior.

2) The other night, the only thing worse than the guy in front of me who was buried in his blackberry for the entire game was the two guys behind me who talked loudly about a legal case for 2 solid hours. Augh! Please give these people some work to do so maybe they'll shut up!

3) I have used my phone to check the internet during a game. May 12, 2007: RFK Stadium. Long rain delay. Looked up weather radar using slow connection and saw the rain passing through. Decided to stay. 1:42am walk-off grand slam by Ryan Zimmerman...

4) It's happening anyway. Only 10 years ago (that's right, 1998) the prevailing attitude among small businesses was that the Internet didn't belong in a place of business. Five or ten years from now broadband access will be in everybody's pocket. So deal with it.

Posted by: LetTeddyWin.com | April 28, 2008 10:42 PM

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