In just three seasons in our nation's capital, the Washington Nationals have quickly developed a loyal following that will only grow with the debut of the $611 million Nationals Park for the 2008 season. The team sold a very respectable 2.7 million Washington Nationals tickets during their first season in 2005, and that mark seem sure to fall during the 2008 Washington Nationals baseball schedule. RFK Stadium simply was not well-suited to be a baseball venue, but Nationals Park certainly is. Built specifically for baseball, the new ballpark features 41,000 seats, 66 suites and a grove of cherry blossoms.
Built in 1961, RFK Stadium lacked many of the amenities of newer ballparks and is a multipurpose stadium. As part of the agreement for the Nationals to move to DC was the city building 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 along the Southeast waterfront. City officials and MLB officials negotiated a deal that would allow some private financing for the ballpark. Throughout 2005 and into 2006, Mayor Tony Williams and the D.C. City Council finally agreed to spend as much as $611 million to get a stadium built.
In March 2006, the Nationals and the DC Sports Commission released plans for the new Nationals ballpark. Groundbreaking occurred in May 2006 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. The ballpark breaks away from the traditional mold of newer ballparks and has a sleek, futuristic look to it. The facade features mostly glass. Like Turner Field in Atlanta, many fans enter the ballpark through the outfield areas which lead from the Navy Yard Metro station. Open concourses are found throughout the ballpark with escalators and ramps taking fans to their seats.
With a seating capacity of 41,000, fans have great views of the action on the field from just about anywhere in the ballpark. Roughly 22,000 seats make up the lower deck that stretches from the left field foul pole to home plate and around the right field foul pole. Approximately 1,800 padded seats are in the first few rows directly behind home plate. The upper deck, where fans can see the US Capital Building, seats 12,000 and is broken into two sections along the first base side. The ballpark also features 2,500 club seats, 1,112 suite seats, a 500-seat founder's club with indoor dining and a 1,300-seat diamond club with indoor dining. Additional seating and bleachers are found beyond the outfield. A section of seating in the outfield was designed to bounce when fans jump, similar to that currently found on the third base side of RFK Stadium. The Nationals played their first game at Nationals Park on March 30, 2008, against the Atlanta Braves. For the time being, the ballpark will be known as Nationals Park as the team has decided against selling the naming rights.