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Lessons for the Lerners: What to Steal From Other Ballparks

A big fireworks show after the game. Prominent displays of team history with must-see artifacts of the sort you'd find at the Hall of Fame or the Smithsonian. Local foods, from well-known local eateries. A public address announcer with verve and a sense of fun. Architectural touches that put a big smile on your face.

A journey through the Midwest to visit four major league ballparks provides an instant catalogue of the kind of touches, large and small, that the owners of the Washington Nationals should--and probably will--consider as they race toward the finish line on their new ballpark in Southeast.

With the team finishing up a surprisingly decent performance in defiance of widespread predictions of a historically awful season, the Nationals still have lots of work to do this winter: Prove to fans that the owners really do plan to spend what it takes to assemble a contending team. Demonstrate that getting to the new park will not be an exercise in frustration. Get the stadium done in time for Opening Day. And prepare a stadium experience that will rival the entertainment extravaganzas that new ballparks are providing across the country.

Here are some highlights of what franchises in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Cincinnati are offering fans:

At Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, which sports a way-too-cute design with a faux riverboat looming over centerfield and a Disneyish look to the place, there are some terrific touches. Cooling water mist stations allow fans to duck out of the heat and return to their seats quite reasonably refreshed. Concession workers, amazingly, volunteer to help you carry a big load of food all the way to your seats. A giant neon sign wraps around the exterior of the stadium saying "Rounding Third and Heading For Home," and the best part is that the words haven't been sponsored by any corporation peddling any product except the sport itself.

The Reds somehow manage to make money without having a cordoned-off, swells-only zone of seats for the ultra-rich at the front of the lower deck. That allows kids to wander all the way up to the field fence in search of autographs. And the Reds have, for an extra $5, a fabulous team Hall of Fame museum that currently sports a deeply detailed exhibit on Pete Rose (though it is white-washed, with hardly a word about his having been banned from baseball), as well as great standing shows on the team's glory years and activities such as a chance to broadcast your own play-by-play account of a game, a kid-friendly pitching bullpen and a uniform dress-up area.

Both here and at the (relatively) new version of Comiskey Park in Chicago, which has one of those awful corporate names that no one can quite grasp, there are lots of local foods--Skyline Chili in Cincy and an unusual but interesting shaved corn dish in Chicago.

The Chicago park offers a remarkably good video screen, but the one in Cleveland really wins that prize--the Nats are touting theirs as the Eighth Wonder of the World, so here's hoping it will be as big, bright and crisp as the one at the Jake. Chicago's is probably the least successful of the new parks architecturally--the upper deck is simply way too high off the field and the whole thing looks like it was done on the cheap, though it is somewhat improved since a renovation designed to make it feel less sterile and forbidding. The White Sox park offers one of the better collections of baseball skills activities that kids of all ages can try out before and during the game.

Music is a big piece of the mix at several of the ballparks: All of these stadiums feature vastly better PA systems than the tinny, asthmatic speakers at RFK, and all of the parks have a far better handle on what music works in each city. So Detroit offers a careful blend of funk and rock, Cincinnati drifts between rock and country, and Chicago has a harder edge reflecting the White Sox's blue collar traditions. The deejays handling the music mix at RFK seem clueless by comparison, continuing to force-feed country tunes to a metropolis where country is absolutely nowhere in the radio ratings and largely absent from the region's pop culture.

At Comerica Park in Detroit, we were treated to an impressive fireworks show staged in centerfield after the game--those fans who chose to stay for the show moved up to closer seats, the lights were killed, and a 20-minute show entranced several thousand folks, partially making up for the home team's loss that night. Strolling out afterwards, we joined the crowd of fans posing for pix of the whimsical concrete Tigers who prowl the facade and front of the ballpark. Postgame entertainment is part of the mix at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, too: A large beer garden over the rightfield fence was the site for a concert by a local rock band that went deep into the night.

The ubiquitous Vote for Your Favorite Song gimmick used at nearly every major league park gets a modern spin in Cincy and Detroit, where fans can choose the song to be played not by cheering for it, but by texting their choice to a number displayed on the scoreboard. And there are far more giveaways at these other parks--not just t-shirts shot into the crowd, but signed baseballs, food and tickets.

What does all this gimmickry achieve? Larger crowds? Perhaps, though that is very much a factor of how well the club is playing--virtually every game is sold out or nearly so in Detroit these days, and even the Reds, who are worse than the Nats, draw decently. The key, as Nats President Stan Kasten has explained ever since he arrived in town, is to create an experience that even the most casual of fans will want to return to. After all, baseball, unlike football or even the indoor sports, is a daily game, and it relies on people coming back again and again. That's why the recent spike in ticket prices is so disheartening--baseball more than any other sport needs to keep a close eye on affordability because it needs people of modest means to come back several times a season.

Entertainment, food and ease of getting there are thus bigger factors for baseball than for other sports. If you have to endure the hell of getting to the Redskins' stadium once a year, that's a sacrifice many people are willing to make; to do that to go to six or seven baseball games in a season is more than many care to bear.

In the end, the challenge facing the Nats is to create a baseball culture of the kind that comes naturally to cities such as Cincy, Chicago and Cleveland. The crowds there were far more reminiscent of the spirit you see at Redskins games than that at RFK. That's understandable given how new the Nats are and how dependent sports affinities are on generations-old traditions and habits. That's why the Nats would be smart to grab onto the history of the Senators and use that in the decorative touches at the new stadium--I was amazed to see how many people flock to every little display of team and sport history in the new Memorial Park in the outfield in Cleveland, in the Reds Hall of Fame, and in the great statuary display of oldtime Tigers in Detroit's outfield concourse.

Finally, there's one thing that every other park has that has never quite made it to RFK: Helmet sundaes. Nuff said.

What would you like to see the Nats put in the new stadium?

By Marc Fisher |  August 24, 2007; 7:48 AM ET
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One feature I really like about Minute Maid Park in Houston is the concession stand that features the visiting team's cuisine. Granted, they take some liberties (the cuisine on Wed. when the Nats were visiting was open-faced roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes), but it's a great idea.

And we must have helmet sundaes!

Posted by: DC Sports Chick | August 24, 2007 8:36 AM

I may have missed it, but what country music is played at RFK? I don't remember ever hearing any except for Austin Kearns walk-up music which is chosen by Kearns himself.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | August 24, 2007 8:58 AM

I've said it a hundred times before, but play "Heart" from Damn Yankees. At the very least, play the song on the organ during pregame and postgame. It's catchy. While we're at it, let's change the mascot from Sceech to Lola too.

There will apparently be statues of Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard, a great nod to the history of baseball here. Hopefully that will expand.

Posted by: WFY | August 24, 2007 9:04 AM

Coincidentally, I put a rather lengthy screed on this subject on my own website yesterday evening and in the mail to Stan Kasten this morning:

http://spam-o-matic.org/sports/kastenletter.htm

P.S. I am not a crackpot.

Posted by: Lindemann | August 24, 2007 9:16 AM

In typical Fisher fashion Marc is more interested in style and not substance. Not to mention he once again proves he knows nothing about the team, farm system, and their incredibly successful draft class of 2007. The Lerners along with Stan Kasten and Jim Bowden are executing a solid plan to rebuild a franchise that MLB had fleeced those last few years in Montreal.

Instead Marc is interested in stadium fluff of mist machines, museuems, and mini batting helmet ice cream cups. It's this kind of thinking that has ruined the game day experience in all sports. No longer do people come to games to cheer their teams they need to be distracted by three ring circus acts that belong on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Take a look at what Dan Snyder has done to the game day experience at FedUp Field. It's awful. The PA system blares far too loud music along with scripted commercials and promos. Everything, and I mean everything at FedUp Field has some corporate sponsorship attached to it. The game on the field has become a secondary background white noise. Redskins games have become so annoying to attend I have stopped going.

Is that what you want the Nationals to become in their new home? If that's the case then the Nats are truly doomed to fail with this season ticket holder.

Posted by: Oh boy | August 24, 2007 9:24 AM

Marc, on your next vacation I invite you to check out PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It has great statues of Pirate greats, authentic Pittsburgh food and the view of the downtown skyline over the outfield bleachers has to be the best in baseball. There is a lot of momentum in the surrounding neighborhood, and also note the easy walkability from downtown and the growing vibrancy just across the bridge from the stadium. Now, about the team....

Posted by: mrjmlw | August 24, 2007 9:58 AM

Get rid of playing "Sweet Caroline." I like that song too. But, it has been coopted by Boston. Play some other song that DC can latch onto (some have mentioned "Bustin Loose"). I am not sure that DC really has any "local" foods/flavor. Sure, there is Ben's. But chili is chili. Every city has some sort of chili. Keep the President's race. Add new Presidents to shake things up (an FDR v. TR race would be neat). Get a female version of Screech. I like the idea of misting stations, Soft serve ice cream in helmet cups. More daily give-aways at the gates (Yankees/Mets games give something almost every game, yet they have excellent attendance). Lastly, the Caps allow a person to text a message, and it will be displayed on the Jumbotron during an intermission. I think this would be a great idea at the new Nats Park. Thanks.

Posted by: MAX | August 24, 2007 10:00 AM

Fluff has aways been a part of any sports experience Oh Boy. There's no reason to pretend that it hasn't been. Even the Yankess and Mets have alot of fluff stuff.

As for the music choices, Country is actually fairly popular around here. It may not necessarily be popular wit hthe peopel who show up at RFK, but it is fairly popular in the DC area if concert attendance is any measure. I do wish they would play more DC area artist though. Would it kill them to mix in alot more Chuck Brown? Maybe start having an at least yearly if not monthly Chuck Brown concert after a game? The O's did that for awhile with whoever they could find that was related to Baltimore, or not sometime, in any way at it was really neat.

Posted by: EricS | August 24, 2007 10:08 AM

I say just throw in a bunch of stuff that plays up to how the rest of the nation looks at this town:

--interns dancing on stripper poles;
--shibboleth shouting contests;
--a character assassination booth;
--all-you-can-eat pork barrel;
--random fan detained without charge or trial for an extended period of time;
--posters hiding behind catchy (and tres sexy) names.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | August 24, 2007 10:10 AM

The only problem with the "museum" concept highlighting the Nats' history is that the Nats / Expos have historically stunk. Maybe you could call the exhibit the "Museum of Baseball Mediocrity." Or, seeing as how people's attention is naturally drawn to things like Ten Worst Lists and other such compendiums of awfulness, you take a Ripley's approach and call it "The Hall of Astonishing Futility."

Posted by: Claudius | August 24, 2007 10:12 AM

helmet sundaes - Oh that brought back memories as a kid.

Yeah those were awesome

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2007 10:24 AM

Marc, do you research things at all? Check the ratings -- in the last full book WMZQ pulled a 4.0 in the 12+ putting it in 6th place in the area, ahead of a lot of other "popular" stations. Seems then that there is a market for country here after all.

Posted by: Bill | August 24, 2007 10:48 AM

Put a winning, exciting team on the field.

If you field a team that's still playing in mid-October, you can have the food concessions selling nothing but boiled asparagus and the music selections dominated by Igor Stravinsky and Barry Manilow, and you'll still fill the seats.

If, OTOH, you field a team of losers year after year, nothing else matters. Not ice cream helmets, museums, fireworks, music, or anything else. People will only stand for "loveable losers" so long before they start to stay away in droves no matter what other sideshows you try to entice them with.

BTW, if you add FDR to the presidents' race, do you put him in a wheelchair?

Posted by: bpscg | August 24, 2007 10:54 AM

International food and festivals. More than any other American city, DC is international. Celebrate the nations who headquarter here and the food that we uniquely have available. Including our own, soul, country, and ethnic.

Posted by: joe c | August 24, 2007 10:54 AM

Those of you who read Barry Svrluga's excellent Wednesday chats will recall a lot of people complaining about the basics -- like toilet paper in the restrooms. So I would say, start with the basics, and don't blame the DC Stadium Commission when it doesn't happen.

Then:

1. Put a competitive team on the field.

2. Offer decent food at reasonable prices.
We all expect a markup, but there is a point where people feel like their pockets are being vacuumed, like $4 bottles of water. CONTINUE TO ALLOW PEOPLE TO BRING IN WATER AND FOOD FOR THEIR OWN CONSUMPTION, which is very much appreciated by families on a budget.

3. Don't excessively gimmick up the game itself, but create a festive and fan-friendly environment before and after games, including access to batting practice (note the practice at some other parks now around the major leagues, which allow access to certain areas as much as two hours before game time).

4. Make the experience kid-friendly, especially on Sundays. Let the kids take the field with the big-leaguers, as some teams do. And schedule more Saturday afternoon games in April, May and September -- the months when it's not too hot. In many cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston, Saturday baseball is mostly played in the daytime.

5. Do everything you can to help develop a welcoming area around the ballpark with restaurants, bars, retail, movie theaters, etc. The city is depending on the Lerners' real estate experience to help make this happen, although much of the property surrounding the ballpark is in the hands of other developers. They really need to work cooperatively. Also, work with the flourishing restaurant and retail strip along 8th Street SE to shuttle people to and from the ballpark. In addition to further enlivening 8th street and providing tax benefits to the District, siphoning off some of the crowd to the Blue/Orange Line station at Eastern Market will help deal with the inevitable overcrowding at the Navy Yard station.

6. Don't look to the District's taxpayers for more handouts, whether for parking or anything else.

Posted by: Meridian | August 24, 2007 10:55 AM

How to make a baseball stadium more exciting? Have anything except baseball games there.

Posted by: joe | August 24, 2007 10:57 AM

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Posted by: VERIZON PIX FLIX 1148007491 | August 24, 2007 11:05 AM

Wasn't Link Wray from PG County? Bill Kirchen?
Half smokes?
Can I, um, handicap the TR/FDR race?
An earlier post was right: it's all about the basics. Which means, can you imagine an RFK/DC concessionaire ever offering to help carry? Maybe a bus trip for stadium staff to PNC or even a minor league park to show them how it's (SUPPOSED to be) done right.

Posted by: Rhymes with... 'weck | August 24, 2007 11:14 AM

Personally I prefer the style at Fenway -- there's Sweet Caroline, the players' chosen music, and Dirty Water after a win, but other than that it's basically just the organ music. No stupid "day-o" or "everybody clap your hands" chants, or annoying video clips, or anything like that. We're there to see a game, just let us watch it. (Not that Fenway is perfect... among other things, most of the seats there are the most uncomfortable places to sit this side of coach class.)

I admit to being kind of fond of the president's race though. But keep the Rushmore presidents, it's not necessary to add extras.

Posted by: kevin | August 24, 2007 11:17 AM

As a season ticket holder, I am amazed at the seat surfers who camp out in the better seats without a ticket. I would like to see ushers do their jobs like they do at the Verizon Center. You don't see people taking seats they didn't purchase because the ushers won't let you get into the section. I'm not a total scrooge, I just find that many of the seat surfers are a little more obnoxious, drunk and loud than the regulars to the point that they sometimes indignant when you show up to take your seat, lots of chutzpa!

Posted by: jr | August 24, 2007 11:18 AM

I completely agree with utilizing local music. Everyone always mentions "Bustin' Loose" and Chuck B - which should absolutely be used. However, expand on that - DC was (is) a mecca for respected music (from Jazz Legends to Punk/Post Punk to Go-Go legends and everything in between). Bad Brains, Fugazi, anything Dave Groehl, Marvin Gaye, Rites of Spring, Minor Threat, Duke Ellington, Roberta Flack, Pearle Bailey, Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, E.U., Rare Essence, Trouble Funk. The list could go on and on but the DC music scene should be represented in its entirety. Forget about "Sweet Caroline" and other songs played at every other stadium. Hire a PA with knowledge of the DC music scene. That would go a long way to giving the new stadium some true flavor. Honor our city/region's great music heritage!! This would draw a lot of true locals (yes, there are many of us - this town is less transient than many think).

Posted by: 20009 | August 24, 2007 11:22 AM

The new owners are old hands at shopping malls, where the key to success is best-in-class stores to draw the crowds, and plenty of free, safe parking.

Thus it is shocking to me that they are about to field a third-rate team in a venue with a truly pathetic lack of parking.

I don't think any cutesy gimmicks can overcome this.
.

Posted by: gitarre | August 24, 2007 11:25 AM

Here's two presidents you can add to the race:

"The Bush Leaguers," with #41 pushing #43 in a stroller.

Posted by: Meridian | August 24, 2007 11:26 AM

Commission Chuck Brown to do versions of baseball songs. The man is a master arranger.

Don't forget about the fabulous Diamond Cuts, a series of 9 baseball-oriented music DCs by local artists that benefits the nonprofit Hungry for Music program.

Sell special Nationals-logo Smartcards to encourage Metro use.

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 24, 2007 11:28 AM

Nationals logo SmarTrip cards are a fantastic idea. They'd encourage Metro use, and if they charged an extra $1 for them, would also provide an extra revenue stream for the Nats. Not much revenue, perhaps, but some revenue is better than none. I'd pay an extra buck for one.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2007 11:55 AM

Please tell the Lerners that they should not constantly babble or blare music over the PA system. For me, the ballpark experience is characterized by the crowd noises all around me during slow moments on the field.

Please please please don't keep the PA constantly busy just to keep it busy.

Posted by: Al | August 24, 2007 12:14 PM

Re: Great American Ballpark

"...the best part is that the words haven't been sponsored by any corporation peddling any product except the sport itself."

You DO realize that the stadium's naming rights belong to Great American Insurance, right?

Posted by: mcl | August 24, 2007 12:17 PM

NASCAR has it right=
- allow folks to bring in their own food and drink (including beer).
- allow folks to smoke in the stands.
- free parking.

oh and I'll add: put a winner on the field, and helmet-cup ice creams.

Posted by: dale jr | August 24, 2007 1:08 PM

Some additional food thoughts. I had one of the best chicken burritos of my life (and I'm from southern Arizona) at RFK at a DC United game. Offer those at the new stadium along with funnel cakes(plain and with toppings), crab cakes, and BBQ on a stick.

Agree on keeping the Presidents to the Mt. Rushmore...

I have been to 4 Nats game this season and the ushers were pretty good at keeping seat surfers out.

Posted by: BDWESQ | August 24, 2007 1:14 PM

Two Words: Pipe Organ

I just attended my first ever game at Wrigley Field. What an experience. Ever stadium, and every team, should have the passion and the quirks of Wrigley and the Cubbie fans.

Underlying it all is a fantastic pipe organ, which even with a two hour rain delay, managed to keep the fans in the park, engaged, buying beer and food. And about that beer and food. I got a beer for $3 and a hotdog for $2.50. We can only pray that the prices at the new park are that reasonable (I know that they could certainly afford to cut them, what with tripling the price of my current behind home plate seats).

Posted by: Michael Formica | August 24, 2007 2:06 PM

"This is the old lefthander, rounding third and heading for home", was the trademark radio signoff phrase of Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, who called the Reds games from April 1967 through the 2004 season. Nuxhall pitched for 15 of his 16 major league seasons for the Reds, and is youngest player to ever play in a major league game (age 15). Having that phrase on the ballpark is a fitting tribute (as is the statue in front of the park).

Posted by: ksu499 | August 24, 2007 2:25 PM

In all seriousness, having FDR in a (racing) wheelchair would be pretty awesome and, I'm guessing, rather empowering for disabled folks. But we'll probably never have Presidents who can be remembered by anyone now living, so that's out.

I think the seat-surfing will become much less of a problem once the team starts putting more fans in the seats. As someone who has surfed the upperdeck on occasion (buying $5 seats and sitting in different $5 seats), I know that the ushers don't really care because, c'mon, there's plenty of room for everyone. Hopefully that'll change next year.

Posted by: 20002 | August 24, 2007 3:13 PM

a fitting tribute to Nuxhall the player, perhaps, but as an announcer he always sounded as if he was talking with a mouthful of marbles.

Posted by: eomcmars | August 24, 2007 3:44 PM

WFY: I was just checking out the soundtrack for Damn Yankees on Amazon.com. Where you talking about the song Heart or the reprise?

Posted by: chinatown | August 24, 2007 4:35 PM

First off, yes to the helmet sundaes. Second, Boston was the 1st with Sweet Caroline, they didn't co-opt it, we did. Third, there's nothing wrong with seat surfing, since the jerks who buy the expensive seats and don't show up aren't using them anyway.

Posted by: ChrisH | August 24, 2007 4:51 PM

One reason I love going to games at Wrigley is its lack of any of those excessive distractions. The new park is going to have a giant television screen? That's just sad.

Posted by: Bringbacktheorgan | August 24, 2007 5:05 PM

Can a town that's seen the Hogettes, Barra Brava/Screaming Eagles, Wild Bill Hagy and Kwame's Krew (just kidding) really be having this argument?

Die-hard fans are worth their (often considerable) weight in gold. First, second, and third priority should be to facilitate the forming of a passionate fan-base. If you get that right, you've got a constant stream of revenue from the die-hards AND the atmosphere needed to entice the day-trippers. (Not to mention home-field advantage when the team is ready to contend.)

How do you encourage this? Some cheap seats are a must, so how about a (nice) section with 50% discount for military or federal employees? Add to that a loyalty scheme -- every dollar spent in the stadium gives you Nats Points that go towards free tickets, discounted gear, free beers, etc. Neighborhood bars, tailgate areas and reasonably priced beer would obviously be nice, and good food never hurt (though "value" is probably as important as "quality"). Fan groups in Japanese baseball and world soccer actually get semi-official recognition -- so do the outreach and support any fan groups that spring up.

Finally, tone down the audio/video hype so these fans can be heard and appreciated.

Then sit back and wait.

Posted by: mik_smith | August 24, 2007 5:18 PM

Forget the gimmicks. How about some PARKING for the general public?

Has anyone else had enough of the INSANE DC "government" policy of building huge venues like the Verizon Arena and the Convention Center, refusing to improve roads and provide parking facilities (except for tiny basement garages for VIP's), then crowing about how the facility is "convenient to Metro"?

Drivers (read: MOST fans) are forced to park at the nearby raggedy converted vacant lots, risking theft/vandalism, and pay through the yazoo for the privilege.

Unless DC and the Nats provide NEARBY, SECURE parking at the stadium, I'll be watching the games at home.

Posted by: CEEAF | August 24, 2007 5:18 PM

What would I love to see at the new park? Cheap seats, and evidence that the owners don't just see the park as a way to relieve me of my paycheck. Cruddy food is fine, but can we please have pizza for less that $18, beer for less than $37, and hot dogs for less than $25 each?

Sheesh - some of us just wanna watch the game and have a dog and a brew. I'm off to Bowie tonight to see young-uns play for cheap.

Posted by: Dan | August 24, 2007 5:21 PM

make sure they have point-of-sale terminals so that you can swipe your debit/credit cards. The present cash-only concession stands are terribly inefficient and result in incredible lines at the very few ATMs

Posted by: jim nolan | August 24, 2007 6:05 PM

Keep the gimmicks.

Give us a winning team and somewhere to park besides some privately-owned vacant lot several blocks away for $25.

Posted by: ceefer66 | August 24, 2007 6:51 PM

How much is this going to matter when no one will be able to get to the new park? I'd like to see Mr. Fisher and the Post do an experiment for the first game--or even the 5th game. Send two staffers to Gaithersburg and two to Springfield with instructions on getting to the game. 1 from each locale should drive, and 1 should Metro. Time how long it takes to get there, then to get back home, and in the case of the drivers, where--or if--they found a place to park.
I imagine this would be quite instructive as every indication is that the Nationals/DC are trying to fill and empty a swimming pool through a garden hose. It doesn't matter WHAT they do in the new park if one can't get there (or afford to, but that's a different story.

Posted by: Rick Zeman | August 24, 2007 8:43 PM

Marc,

You went to the wrong stadium in Chicago. Beautiful Wrigley Field is what baseball should be. Even though commercialism has slowly crept in, you won't hear "Sweet Caroline" or canned enthusiasm. Organ music, a "guest conductor" leading the 7th inning stretch (may Harry Caray rest in peace) and the entire crowd singing along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and baseball, baseball, baseball. No amusement parks.

All that being said, the Lerners need to do something about the lines and the concession prices. It is absurd to have huge concession lines when only 10,000 people are in the park.

Posted by: Jeff L | August 24, 2007 9:00 PM

NO DIPPIN' DOTS.

Posted by: Mister Methane | August 24, 2007 10:02 PM

To Jeff L.: The Harry Caray "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" was actually created by Bill Veeck -- when he owned the White Sox and Caray was the voice of the South Side. Everyone forgets that.

I agree with getting rid of "Sweet Caroline." Not only is it not original, but it reminds us of all the damn yuppie Red Sox fans that infiltrate Washington through government jobs, thanks to their snooty Ivy League degrees. We "townies" say to them: go back to Harvard. We tolerate you, but don't run our city, or our team!

Chuck Brown music would be great at games...and for rallies, how about using the first few bars of Link Wray's classic "Rumble" (recorded right here in D.C.) during rallies, a la the tomahawk chop?

Posted by: Vincent | August 25, 2007 10:49 AM

Lots of suggestions:

1. Flags somewhere in the stadium for every MLB team, ideally arranged to show the standings - or, someplace that shows the league standings prominently and is manually updated (like at Fenway).

2. Pre- or post-game parties outside the stadium, like at PIT or SF. Making getting to the game early and staying afterwards part of the overall event, not just the game.

3. AFFORDABLE food and beers. I was at AT&T Park not long ago - and paid 8$ per beer. That's just ridiculous, there's no excuse to charge that much.

4. Two-dollar-Tuesdays, or some other off-night promotion that offers 2$ hotdogs and 2$ beers, or something like that. Will liven up the crowd!

5. No excessive music. Let fans enjoy the game, without constant blaring music during every down moment. Ultimately, that breeds passive fans who don't cheer spontaneously.

6. Kill Sweet Caroline. Find an original song for DC, not a copy of Boston's song.

Just to start. Plenty more to come from the group, I'm sure.

Posted by: MikeMidd | August 25, 2007 1:50 PM


Posted by: teen | August 25, 2007 6:04 PM


Posted by: teen | August 25, 2007 6:04 PM

Killing Sweet Caroline in favor of Chuck Brown or Damn Yankees is an excellent idea, indeed. The music in general should be pumped up. At Comerica in Detroit the music is easily twice as loud as it is at RFK, and the fans get really into it. At the Tigers game I went to, a whole herd of little leaguers paraded around the ballpark about an hour before game time, chanting "Let's go Tigers!" You don't get much of that at RFK.

And while fielding a competitive team is the ultimate goal, it really doesn't have as much to do with making the game experience exciting as one might think. Look at Cubs fans, who are stuck with perennial losers on the field, or even White Sox or Reds fans. They're into the game and the experience despite seeing fewer wins than they might enjoy. There have been times when, as a huge Nats fan, it's been almost depressing to watch losses every night. But if the Lerners make going to a game an exciting experience, fans can get into each game and forget about accumulating losses. Fun only encourages cheering, which can only help the Nats.

And it's really not worth complaining about driving to RFK or the new ballpark. I don't think there's much in the way of parking in Chicago, but fans come to games by the droves. And the metro equivalent there is handled much worse than here; I had to wait a good 15 minutes for a train after a White Sox game, while I've never had to wait for than 4 after the dozens of Nats games I've metroed to.

Posted by: go nats | August 25, 2007 11:21 PM

How about spending the money on schools instead of lining the pockets of billionaire baseball owners.

Nah, why waste money on things like classrooms when you can spend it on watching a bunch of steroid monkeys hit a ball with a stick. Now that's fun.

Posted by: thuff7 | August 26, 2007 12:10 AM

The best thing that the Nats can add to their new stadium would be a winning team. Mets fans have dealt with Shea since 1964 and have continued to bring in at least 2 million fans a year and will easily pass 3 million this year without mist tents, specialized local foods, and pitching machines for the kids etc.. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait for the new Mets park in 2009 but after recently visiting the park in Cincy, those fans told me they would rather have a winning team in Riverfront than a awful team in a nice stadium.

Posted by: Nathan | August 26, 2007 10:52 AM

Bad Brains, Fugazi, and Minor Threat? Sorry, but 99.9% of DC area residents have never heard of them much less would recognize (or like) any of their songs. While we're at it, there definitely is/was a country music scene here. Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patsy Cline, Roy Clark, the Seldom Scene, etc.

Posted by: music choices | August 27, 2007 1:25 PM

Must agree with the above post about local music. While I would get a kick out of hearing Waiting Room, I don't think most people would have any idea.
That said, "Washington, D.C." by Magnetic Fields should incorporated into the new stadium experience.

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