Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A night at the ballpark

Last Thursday night we attended the Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies game with N and R at Nationals Park in D.C. As I mentioned previously, this is the first major ballpark to be certified LEED Silver, so it’s a fun place to both watch a baseball game and be an architecture critic.

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For the most part, it’s a very nice, well-constructed stadium. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. It was designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport) and Devrouax & Purnell Architects and Planners, seats 41,888 fans and cost $611 million of public money to build. Word on the street is that the Lerner family, who own the Nationals, spent tens of millions of dollars of additional construction money. N had the opportunity to take a construction tour before it officially opened last year, so she gave me the low-down on many of the LEED features and stories she remembered from construction. She and R also gave us the stadium tour which included pointing out all the vantage points for the monuments. The stadium itself wasn’t designed to have permanent views of the D.C. monuments (which is a shame) but mostly because the area where it’s situated is a growing one, and there are many high-rises slated to go up around it, so trying to preserve views would be futile. But some view corridors do currently exist, if you hunt them out. This was my second visit to Nationals Park- we went a few weeks ago when family was in town. We all complained that the stadium wasn’t well-situated for views, but I guess we didn’t know where to look.

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The stadium is on the west side of the Anacostia River, just about a mile south of the Capitol. Eventually there will be an entire river park development of green space to connect the water’s edge with the entrance to the park. They have just recently opened water taxi service to the park from Alexandria (woo-hoo!) and National Harbor, and eventually there should be service from other parts of the city. Dr. Jay and I took the Metro to Navy Yard station, which is about two blocks from the Park. It was super convenient getting to the Thursday night game, though we had a bear of a time getting home- it involved the subway, a bus, and a taxi and two hours of our life. But oh well, lesson learned.

Some of the LEED features I saw employed?

- Proximity to public transportation

- Bike parking and Bike valet

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- Availability of Recycling receptacles

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- Dual-flush toilets (which N pointed out no longer have their signs indicating that they are dual flush, therefore, the majority of the public will probably not know to move the lever to the UP position for most flushing needs)

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- Recycled materials (and in general, less packaging) at concessions like napkins, etc.

-Green roofs


- Use of local materials: concrete came from next door, along the Anacostia

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And a few other features that are less-discernible to the naked eye:

-It was developed on a former Brownfield site, so they got points for cleaning up the site

- There is an intricate ground and storm water filtration system that will protect the Anacostia River by separating water used for cleaning the ballpark from rainwater, and treating both sources of water before releasing it back to the sanitary and stormwater systems.

- There is high-efficiency lighting

- Construction materials contain 20% recycled content.

- They used drought-resistant landscape materials

- Roof materials have a high degree of reflectance, keeping the cooling costs down

What do I think of the park as an architectural piece? Well… I’ll defer to this assessment. I’ll say this: I’ve been to seven major league stadiums and Nationals Park isn’t my favorite. But we had fun with N and R, most definitely.

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They had to put on their Rally Caps because the Nationals needed rallying that night. They did not win that game, unfortunately.

Oh, and the first major league game at Nationals Park? March 30, 2008: Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals. The Nationals defeated the Braves 3–2 with a walk-off home run from Ryan Zimmerman (former UVA-man). Oh, the irony.

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