Armed with the camera I fetched out of my car and a pad of hot pink sticky notes, both of which I shoved into my purse after emptying out extraneous items, I dashed out of work into the windy urban wilds at nearly quarter of 11 to try to make the stadium unveiling at the Convention Center. It was a last minute decision, but I figured it could be disguised as a longish lunch. Amazingly, I made it in time and was quickly relieved to see my camera would not look out of place, so I retrieved it from my purse and stood in the standing-room only small meeting room trying to stake out a spot while recognizing some faces. In retrospect, I should have sat on the floor in front of the seating area with the other photographers, but while standing off to the side looking out of breath from running from the metro and bewildered by the crowd, a very nice woman offered me the seat next to her.
I noticed everyone had white DCSEC folders with press information inside - I asked the woman where she got hers and she told me the press table. I scanned my memory for everything I passed on my way in and didn’t recall seeing a press table. I thought about running back out into the hallway, but Mayor Williams was ordering “let’s get started”! So I snapped a couple photos of him and the mystery displays instead and took my seat hoping I’d find the press packets after the unveiling.
They started with a video showing some of the players on the field from last year (even a prominent shot of Gary Bennett throwing a ball during practice to which I actually “Hee!”d out loud). They replayed council member Vincent Orange’s Starbucks and plastic bag analogy during the round table when he demonstrated that no money would come from the general fund (plastic bag) to go into the stadium (coffee cup).
The video continued with talk about costs, benefits, what will be gained by having the new stadium - all stuff we’ve already heard. They showed images of the Smithsonian ‘castle’ and the National Cathedral while saying they wanted something that would “fit in the dramatic landscape of our city”.
After the video, Mark Touhey introduced Linda Cropp. “This has been a very long road and a long row we have hoed!”
Jack Evans - “It was harder to keep baseball than to get baseball. Now we know it is here for good!”
Vincent Orange was very spunky at the podium. He definitely radiates energy and exuberance! He gave the financial figures speech and finished with, “At the end of the day, we did a good job bringing home $4.3 billion in benefits.” (I think that was the dollar number - I was scribbling and listening at the same time)
Sharon Ambrose - “This really is an exciting day. The Anacostia is not a forgotten river. We are putting the most important new building on its banks to send that message.” I did get a picture of her, but it came out totally unflattering, so I’ll refrain from posting it.
Even Tony Tavares, team president was there and stood up to take a bow when asked to by Mark Touhey (wow, he doesn’t look at all like what I had pictured - although, I’m not sure I could define what I expected). Pretty cool that he was there. I wonder why I’d never seen a picture of him or anything before? Has he read my blog? I hope I didn’t say anything bad. Touhey went on to say, “I hope the new owner will have the sense to keep Tony Tavares on board”.
And then the final introduction - Mayor Williams. Mark Touhey handed him a green Curly W hat (I was sitting pretty far back, so a lot of my pics came out dark from the flash not reaching) and pulled out one for himself - cracking a comment about St. Patrick’s Day and Mayor Williams being Irish (titters from the audience). Then he says, “You’ve heard of the black Irish, right?” Everyone was in quite the humorous mood there today! So they both donned their green caps (with white rivets, so I bet these are possibly for sale at the street vendors?) and Mayor Baseball went on to thank Bob DuPuy, Jerry Reinsdorf, and Tony Tavares. In the DC version of the Oscars, he then awarded the “Best Political Presentation” award to Vincent Orange for the whole coffee-cup-is-a-stadium general-fund-is-this-red-bag schtick.
Mayor Williams commended Jack Evans by stating, “Whenever I heard this guy had called baseball, I thought ‘run for the hills’!” (I was sure he was going to introduce Marion Barry, who I didn’t see) and went on to say what a tough negotiator Evans was in the process. He then asked everyone to give a big hand to the outstanding leadership of Linda Cropp. Mark Touhey was described as an eternal optimist with Williams saying he must have been the band leader on the Titanic in a past life. He asked the independent CFO, Nat Gandhi to take a bow and likened the office to Star Trek.
“We need more revenue!”
“The engines cannot take it!”
So he would send Robert Bobb to the reactor core.
I began looking around wondering if any other Natosphere members were there. The place was absolutely packed. TV cameras lined up against the back wall, the pit of photographers on the floor in front, and roving cameramen along the edges. The area between my chair and the wall to the right of the podium was crowded with folks and I wondered who they were. I wondered if there was anyone there I wrote something negative about and if anyone would recognize me (thank goodness for hair coloring - I don’t look at all like my ‘about me’ photo currently!).Mayor Williams went on to liken the entire process to one of his favorite childhood stories, Bleak House by Charles Dickens. He said the story starts set in the London muck, mire, and fog. We kept the dream alive and the flame burning. The fog has lifted and we have a new stadium. With that, he turned the podium over to Allen Lew, CEO of DCSEC who in turn deferred to the HOK architects.
They had two objectives with the design - something “new, fresh, exciting, unique to DC that melds baseball and monumental DC of our time”. He emphasized it should be called a “ballpark” rather than a stadium, because they want it to be a ball park with a timeless exterior and classic interior.
And then VOILA! The curtain rose and the mysterious blue coverings were yanked.
Then they showed a one minute 3D computer generated fly-through animation. I tried taking photos of it, but they were blurry. The video should be posted to the DC Sports website soon, from what I’ve been told. I stared and stared at the replaying animation, but I did not see any columns or architectural references to the monuments and buildings in DC. That leak was apparently wrong. It looks like the spot between left and center field is open, allowing the view of the top of the Capitol. (Update: The Washington Post has the video up at their site)
Q&A: Someone named Mark asked the first question. I have to wonder if it was Mark Zuckerman from the Times? He wanted to know why a DVD preview of the stadium unveiling went to the Post last night and no one else. Dang, that stinks! No wonder they got their story up so darn quickly (it was up by the time I was back at my desk 3 Metro stops later)!! I was dying for a preview, but figured nobody would see one before the official unveiling - I figured wrong, I guess.
Another important question - how conducive to tailgating will the parking situation be? Apparently not so much since plans currently call for underground parking. To satisfy you tailgaters, there will be off-site parking. Oh joy! ;-) I wonder if building codes prohibit small grills in concrete parking garages? Sun is always a good thing, though. Mayor Williams said we can’t provide that because of the downtown environment.
Nobody mentioned the proposed ferries or harbor area - I would think maybe some good docks there would allow boaters to swim-platform-gate? That’d be pretty cool. Too bad my boat is much too far away to get into the Potomac/Anacostia!
Another reporter asked Williams’ thoughts on the design and if he was pleased. He said he thinks it does meet the goals and that there were some disagreements along the way among members. He said they wanted to break the mold and push the envelope in terms of architecture.
The Capitol can be viewed from the upper deck concourse and seats above it. Price has not been established by the team yet.
The new Nationals owner can change the design at his expense, however the exterior is already set, so no dramatic changes can be made there. If the owner does desire any changes, they can only be made to the interior.
That’s a wrap! I wandered around and photographed the mockups and drawings they had on display. I won’t repost the ones you can see already on the DC Sports site.
I picked up a press kit at the end (yay!). I feel like a total amateur reporter haha! Actually, I wanted to shake someone’s hand and thank them for making this happen, but I totally chickened out. Most of the people I recognized were mobbed by cameras and interviewers anyway. I did walk out of the conference next to Tony Tavares and debated asking if I could get a good photo, but my nerves took a dive. It seemed everyone in there knew everyone else - very friendly atmosphere.
My thoughts on the stadium ballpark - eh. I really thought there would be something “timeless” like columns or anything to tie into the monuments and fantastic architecture already present in DC. Someone commented to me that it looked a lot like the convention center. As I walked back to the Metro, I turned to look back and sure enough, the new design does resemble it in many ways. I like that the back part is open - that looks pretty neat. It’s hard to form a solid opinion based on a few watercolors, so I guess I’ll have to see it live and in person to make a final call on my opinion. I went into the unveiling eager and suspenseful, and left feeling like I missed a great climax somewhere before hitting the denouement. But we’ll see - I’m thrilled the designs were finally made public and that we’re moving on - there is certainly enough positive there.
Other Natosphere Comments
- Capitol Punishment
- Nats Blog
- Oleanders and Morning Glories
- Beltway Boys
- Nasty Nats
- Banks of the Anacostia
- Federal Baseball
- Thurdl Sports
Tue 03/14/06, 10:48 pm EST