Nats Park Second Impression? Broken, Half-Empty

Reports about the new Nationals Park in D.C. have happily parroted the company line about the $611m cost of the project. We will be terribly surprised if the final price tag remotely resembles that number except in its use of Arabic numerals and U.S. dollars previously belonging to D.C. taxpayers.

Nationals Park under construction

And what has the city received in return for the investment in Nationals owner Stan Kasten’s future? The Sunday night edition of Opening Day earned kudos, HD images carefully framed for maximum beauty, and a Ryan Zimmerman sendoff to inspire the masses.

How about the morning after? Not so smooth. In fact, it’s more like Jane Fonda’s morning after. Monday night’s second game at Nationals Park included wonky sound, finicky scoreboards, and the unfortunate appearance of the Washington Nationals as the home team. No wonder (a reported) 20k showed up, half as many as the big open.

How did Kasten react to the snafu-laden second night performance?

“I don’t have a count, but I’m very happy with tonight’s crowd, with the weather what it is, on a Monday night for Florida, second game of the year, cold weather against an NCAA championship game, I’m very pleased with the crowd.”

Okay, but what about tomorrow and the rest of the week?

“I think we’re going to have mid-20s, or 20s. I just don’t know yet. That’s OK. It’s also good for us. It’s the right size crowd for us to keep learning things.”

Sure; after all, Stanford-Tennessee tonight promises to depress attendance.

Kasten’s right to state there will always be issues to shake out in any new building, especially one rushed to the finish line. However, shouldn’t the locals expect a little better for their dollar? We don’t remember hearing any talk of tempered expectations on the run-up to Opening Day.

Also, considering this should be the economic engine to energize the entire community’s rebuilding efforts, wouldn’t it be nice if more than 15-20,000 people cared enough to show up while the new park smell still lingers over the nacho cheese smell? Maybe it wouldn’t be sustainable all season with the rebuilding team, but how about April 7th?