Housing Complex

Beer and Retail Don’t Mix at the Ballpark?

Peering into the Fairgrounds.

A couple days ago, JDLand reported that Diverse Markets Management, the folks who'd been brought in to run the retail component of the shipping container bullpen known as the Fairgrounds across from Nationals Park, pulled out five days after the experiment began. Why the quick turnaround?

The company's director, Michael Berman, brought in several clothing and jewelry vendors from the flea market he manages at Eastern Market, but says their sales were terrible—the shipping containers form a kind of courtyard, and people go inside for the beer, not to browse. Once they're there, the loud music doesn't exactly create a great shopping environment.

"It's still the bullpen. The mix of the retail and vending with that was just oil and water. It's the wrong crowd, and there was just no curiosity, no interest in it," he says. "I really believe in the neighborhood, and this would have been the first real retail. I really wanted to create a little design district for folks that live there...And everybody I brought in was just saying, 'I can't work in that scenario.'"

How could it be changed to really work? Berman says that the Fairgrounds would have to open up, become more "porous," perhaps cut the shipping containers lengthwise rather than have them open on the small ends. "I think the right location, not associated with beer, could really be an intimate environment in marketing and vending," he says. Like Dekalb Market in Brooklyn. "That kind of thing could take root and blossom, in the right environment, with the right partners."

Georgetown Events, which operates the whole shebang, seems to think the concept can still work in its current configuration. "Unfortunately, DMM was not the right fit," said president Bo Blair in a statement. "We are fully committed to moving forward quickly with a host of other vendors, artists, real estate brokers, and entrepreneurs who see the incredible potential to create something unique and interesting on the site. We did not go out and spend over $350,000 and waste an incredible amount of time and effort to have the containers sit empty. We will fill them soon."

Photo by Lydia DePillis

  • er

    or put it in one of the lots on the east end of u street.

  • Drez

    What a shock.
    It was branded a fairground...
    What image does that conjure for you?
    Bring in the Ferris Wheel and merry-go-round, I say.
    And keep the beer, but add kid-friendly food.
    Take the long view!

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    plus the audience is wrong. It's not the beer per se, it's people coming for beer/baseball. Their entertainment equation doesn't involve shopping unless it's sports/baseball specific. E.g., Yawkey Way.

    Also, this paper/book is very good about the impact of night baseball at Wrigley Field and how it led to a fundamental change in the type of "retail" in Wrigleyville.

    - http://www.amazon.com/Its-Hardly-Sportin-Stadiums-Neighborhoods/dp/0875803059/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

    I used to run a quote from the journal article from which the book was extended as part of my .sig line on my emails...

    "Even as cities in the United States and elsewhere seek to recharge their economic well-being by restoring (and typically, transforming for contemporary use) evocative buildings, public spaces, and neighborhoods, they also risk erasing the very features that had given these pieces of the urban physical environment their original distinction." -- Spirou, Costas & Larry Bennett. "Revamped Stadium...New neighborhood." Urban Affairs Review. v37:5, May 2002, 675-702.

  • USDOTperson

    It wasn't marketed at the folks who work (or who live?) nearby. It was perceived as a thing for game attendees, and was overwhelmed by Nats hullabaloo. Best place would be some empty lots further east, along M or L streets. Would mean a loss of a parking lot though.

  • Johnny

    In short, nobody wants to shop and stroll among a bunch of miller light guzzling baseball brahs in flip flops. I think what they should do now is play up the "Fairground" theme and fill the shipping containers with 1$ carnival games. The kind where you win crappy stuffed animals for throwing a ring on a coke bottle. but they could be crappy stuffed animals wearing nats jerseys. I would like to see a successful version of the Delkab market in DC though. How bout on the roof of DCUSA. That would be a nice juxtaposition with the big box stores.

  • Ranada

    One of my favorite summer events last year was Truckeroo. When I heard the location was being turned into the Half Street Fairgrounds I thought it sounded like they were just going to move in a bunch of Eastern Market vendors and that's exactly what happened. I could have told them before they spent $350,000 that this was a bad idea. Like everyone else has said, there is potential to make the Fairgrounds fun, but putting the same vendors that everyone has seen at Eastern Market for years in a bunch of stuffy shipping containers is a giant FAIL. The best thing Georgetown Events can do is find a new company with original concepts for the Fairgrounds.

  • oboe

    In short, nobody wants to shop and stroll among a bunch of miller light guzzling baseball brahs in flip flops.


    Sorry, but MLB has essentially been reduced to a suburban right-wing sport. Much like speed and red-light cameras, we're happy to take your money, but there's not much here for city dwellers.

  • BW


    That's idiotic. Has nothing to do with political affiliation, or geographic origin of the people there. It has more to do with not wanting to lug a 24x18 framed print into Nats Park.

  • Trinidader

    Suburban right-wing sport? WTF? Have to agree with @BW.

    As a left-leaning city dwelling partial season ticket holder for the last 7 years I appreciate the efforts of the Bullpen/Fairgrounds people to fill a void until those buildings go up. Even if the crowd is a bit douchey sometimes (Justin's Cafe up the street is a good less douchey option). Shopping is not really my thing and especially not something that I need as part of my game day experience. Looks like I'm not the only one.

  • yawper

    I'm a left-wing city-dwelling gay and I love baseball brahs in flip flops. Not so much artsy-craftsy shops in metal crates. But maybe that's just me.

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  • Mike

    Count me in as another left leaning urbanite you loves baseball, enjoys beer, and could care less about artsy flee markets. Ga Nats

  • glen

    I was really looking forward to this Fairgrounds opening, but its failure has been in catering almost exclusively to the baseball crowd. The only time it's open is when there's a game and it's basically The Dugout surrounded by metal boxes instead of wood boards - complete with tossing beanbags into holes.

    Obviously the ballpark crowd would use it, but I envisioned a more artistic space that came alive at night with quirky movies, offbeat bands, or local theater productions. I thought it might draw more from the Crafty Bastards type of vendors than the same EM vendors we can see every Saturday.

    The one in Brooklyn is much more like this. Sports fans can boost revenue but they aren't going to make a space like this work.

  • Navy Yd. Office Worker

    I had hoped that there might be some retail that would appeal to office workers in the Navy Yard retail desert. Perhaps we could buy something not sold at CVS, our only store. (We do have lots of banks.)

    If retail won't work adding to the Fairgrounds atmosphere sounds like an interesting idea. Pony rides for kids and as mentioned large stuffed animals that one can "win" by tossing rings on bowling pins or old glass soda bottles.

  • sb

    plus, I can't imagine how hot it will be in the summer in there with crowds, metal boxes blocking any breeze, etc. That place just shouts misery to me whenever I walk by.

  • Dave

    Baseball's a suburban right wing sport? Guess someone forgot to tell me.

    What an idiotic "observation".