Opening Week: Smooth, With Little Hoopla

By Jacqueline Dupree
Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ballpark and Beyond is adapted from Jacqueline Dupree's blog on development in Near Southeast, the rapidly changing area between Capitol Hill and the Anacostia River that is now home to Nationals Park.

You may have heard that a baseball stadium has opened on South Capitol Street. (There's been some coverage of it in the media.)

I have to admit that I'd been dreading the week after Opening Day for about three years. I imagined trying to keep up with the gallons of ink and millions of electrons that would be spilled complaining about Nationals Park not being finished, or about massive cost overruns, or a traffic meltdown, or a transit catastrophe, or any combination thereof.

But I hardly knew what to do with myself in the days following the March 30 opener, because there wasn't much being said other than it all seemed to go pretty well. Reports were similar from Monday's first weeknight game, where rush-hour-related problems had been feared, although the crowd was about half the opener's size.

Not only did the ballpark open on time (I'll leave the "on budget" argument to others), but the other large-scale projects undertaken to get Near Southeast ready for its moment in the spotlight were finished on schedule as well. The expansion of the west entrance of the Navy Yard Metro station was completed by Opening Day. First Street, Potomac Avenue and I Street were widened, upgraded and reopened on time. And the improvements to South Capitol Street and the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge -- including last summer's demolition of the raised viaduct between O Street and Potomac Avenue -- were finished on schedule as well.

Based on my observations, it seems that the network of parking lots put together by the Nationals for Opening Night near the ballpark were not close to filled, despite months of dire predictions that even these 4,000 or so spaces would not be anywhere near enough to handle season ticket holders, let alone people who just had tickets for that night and wanted to park near the stadium.

Judging from the responses I got on my blog, it seems that fans are using an assortment of ways to get to the ballpark, which is a lot more fun than just having everyone pile into their cars to drive to huge parking lots. Here's a sampling of some of the comments I received:

· "Went to Opening Night on the N22 bus. Left Massachusetts and First at 5:00 pm and was the only one on the bus until Eastern Market where one other joined me."

· "Walked from home near Eastern Market."

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