Baseball returned to the Nation’s capital in 2005 and in 2008 the first new ballpark since 1962 opened in Washington, DC. The history of professional baseball in Washington, DC dates to 1901 when the Washington Senators became charter members of the American League. From 1911 until 1961 the club played at Griffith Stadium before moving to Minnesota, becoming the Minnesota Twins. An expansion franchise was awarded to the city and the new Washington Senators began play at RFK Stadium in 1962. They played here for a decade before moving to Texas, becoming the Rangers, due to lack of support. In April 2005, baseball returned to Washington, DC for the first time since after the 1971 season. After trying to lure the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres to the city in the 1990s, the Montreal Expos moved Washington DC after the 2004 season. For nearly a decade the Expos struggled attracting fans to Olympic Stadium and trying to get a new ballpark built in Montreal. By 2000 it became inevitable that the Expos would eventually leave the City of Montreal.
Several cities sought the Expos, but Washington DC was the logical location for the team to relocate. It had been without MLB for over three decades and became one of the largest cities in the country that could support a baseball team. In September 2004, MLB announced that the Expos would move to the city. The Montreal Expos were renamed the Washington Nationals and began playing at RFK Stadium in April 2005. Built in 1961, RFK Stadium lacked many of the amenities of newer ballparks and was a multipurpose stadium. Part of the agreement for the Expos to move to DC was the city would build a new ballpark. Throughout December 2004, there were weeks of political wrangling as several members of the District of Columbia Council balked at an earlier plan to finance a new stadium. City officials and MLB negotiated a deal that allowed public financing for the ballpark. In March 2006, the Nationals and the DC Sports Commission released plans for the new Nationals ballpark. Located in southeast Washington along the Anacostia River, bordered by South Capital Street to the west, M Street to the north, First Street to the east and Potomac Avenue to the south, construction began in Spring 2006. The ballpark has yet to be named after a corporate sponsor and is known as Nationals Park.
On March 30, 2008 the Washington Nationals played their first game at Nationals Park against the Atlanta Braves. Nationals Park is the fourth ballpark to open in Washington DC following American League Park, Griffith Stadium and RFK Stadium. The Washington Nationals ballpark breaks away from the traditional mold of newer ballparks and has a sleek, more modern design that features a mostly glass and steel facade. Like Turner Field in Atlanta, many fans enter the ballpark through the outfield areas that leads from the Navy Yard Metro station. Open concourses can be found throughout the ballpark with escalators and ramps taking fans to their seats. With a seating capacity of 43,341, fans have great views of the action on the field from just about anywhere in the ballpark. Roughly 22,000 seats are located in the lower deck and stretch from the left field foul pole to homeplate and around the right field foul pole. The upper deck, where fans will be able to see the US Capital Building, seats 12,000 and breaks into two sections along the first base side. Additional seating and bleachers are found beyond the outfield.
Nationals Park has many luxuries and amenities similar to other ballparks built recently. Approximately 1,800 padded luxury seats are in the first few rows directly behind homeplate. The ballpark also features 2,500 club seats, 1,112 suite seats and a 500-seat founder’s club. Fans can visit the PNC Diamond Club, a baseball inspired restaurant that celebrates Washington’s baseball history. The Homestead Greys Bar, located inside the Stars and Stripes Club is a tribute to Washington’s Negro League team. Located near the centerfield gate is Strike Zone, a kids play area featuring a variety of games. Fans visiting Nationals Park will notice that the ballpark has all blue seats except in centerfield. Here is the Red Porch, directly below the Red Porch Restaurant where fans watch the game from a different perspective. Nationals Park would not be complete without one of the most distinctive trees that Washington DC is known for, cherry trees. Fourteen Kwanzan Japanese cherry trees are located in the centerfield plaza and left field concourse. The stadium will host one of MLB’s biggest events in 2018, the All-Star Game.
Nationals Park Pictures