City Desk

Nats Stadium Slammed


The Washington Post's architecture guru Philip Kennicott writes a withering critique of Nationals Park for today's paper. The critic believes this behemoth, designed by experienced stadium architecture firm HOK, is a dud.

He dubs the parking garages as "disastrously situated" for obscuring the front entrance. And then ticks off all the lost opportunities:

"Approached from the South Capitol Street bridge, the building might have been better framed by more greenery — but a parking lot for the team has been placed right where a garden should be. Along South Capitol, the face of the building might have been opened up for street-level retail, something to make it inviting and even useful for the residents of the very poor neighborhood. There are even glass windows that suggest what storefronts might have looked like, but those windows are filled with Nationals advertising and they hide empty, useless space."

And later in the piece, Kennicott goes in for the devastating blow:

"From the top of the stadium, look out at the skyline, toward the Capitol Dome. At first, it seems like a happy accident that it is most visible from the cheapest seats. But now look down into the neighborhoods where public schools have become dilapidated brick bunkers, their windows covered in forbidding metal mesh. It's enough to make you weep. Not about the stadium, which is as generic as it goes. But rather the cynical pragmatism that governs our priorities, socially and architecturally. Washington is a city where people can stare straight at the most powerful symbol of their democratic enfranchisement, and still feel absolutely powerless to change the course of our winner-takes-all society."

I would agree with Kennicott. I toured the stadium about six weeks ago. The parking garages really stuck out. Especially when you consider that's the place where home run balls may end up. The garages scream Montgomery Mall. The rest of the facade is in fact pretty dull.

Yesterday morning, I drove by the stadium and thought about all the street-level spaces that were left empty. I'm sure they will be filled with all kinds of mega-chain crap. But did they really have to be papered over with those silly illustrations of ballplayers? It's the same illos that cover the windows of the other Lerner project at 20 M Street SE. The posters look cheap.

I love the fact that the critic basically echoes Fenty's old position about priorities. Now that he's mayor, he had to go to the game.

I didn't go. So what do I know about the actual experience?

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  • dj eurok

    my boy at work got sick from the hamburger (not bens or 5 guys but the generic one) - watch out.

  • WFY

    The experience was great! Of course, everything looks better on Opening Day/Night with all the bunting. Metro worked well in (very early, very crowded but efficient) and out for me. The pageantry was good, the seats were more comfortable than RFK nd faced the right direction, unlike BAAAltimore. The hot dogs were good, the half-smokes were better. The HD screen didn't have replays for some reason though. The sound was great and the music wasn't overwhelming like a Redskins game. Best of all the Nats won with a walk-off homer.

  • LooLoo

    Nosebleed seats: $125

    Hot dog: $4.50

    Plastic cup of cheap watered-down beer: $7.50

    Hearing & seeing the Worst President in Modern History loudly boo-ed at the game: PRICELESS

  • Matt S

    Nationals Park will soon be renamed with a corporate sponsor and only add to the disgust I feel for this team and the city leadership.

    I am not opposed to bringing in sports clubs, I do think they can meld a community together at times. But this new stadium was plunked down in one of the poorest neighborhoods in DC and cost well over $600 million dollars. It makes me wonder what are our priorities?

    It is shocking to walk into most of the libraries in this city, they are shameful and underfunded. The libraries are so bad, they make me want to run to Borders.

    Of course we all know how bad our schools are, so I won't even go there. But what we know about our city is that a goddamn sports franchise is more important then making sure our children, if not our entire citizenry,can read.

    In the end, it probably doesn't matter if DC residents can read the classics or ponder some philosophy. We can just rest easy that we can all eat a hot dog, drink a beer and read the numbers on a score board sponsored by Budweiser.