- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2008

Over the last 22 months, thousands of workers have toiled around the site of the Washington Nationals new ballpark. Now it’s time for thousands of fans to flow through the ballpark’s gates.

Nationals Park formally opens today for an exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles, the final trial run before the stadium makes its nationally televised debut tomorrow night.

Though tensions have been high, the mood at the ballpark yesterday was festive, as city and team officials celebrated the opening of the stadium and the newly expanded Navy Yard Metro station. Navy Yard Area

Sports business reporter Tim Lemke talks about the area around the new stadium in Southeast Washington, D.C.

Video by Peter Lockley, edited by Christian Fuchs

It was on May 4, 2006 that construction officially began at the ballpark site, nestled along the Anacostia River at the corner of South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue. The stadium rose from the ground in record time and did not violate the D.C. Council’s cap on the cost of hard and soft costs.

“This project achieved every construction milestone, from setting the last piece of steel to laying the sod,” D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty said. “I think I speak for everyone when I say this project represents the true greatness of Washington, D.C.”

Nearly everyone associated with the ballpark project stood at the stadium’s center-field concourse, looking over the pristine green field and spotless blue seats. There were executives from the Nationals, D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, architect HOK Sport and the construction team of Clark/Hunt/Smoot. In the background, crews in bright vests operated pressure washers and street sweepers.

While celebrating the ballpark’s completion, the city yesterday announced that the ballpark had achieved a special certification in Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the most environmentally friendly ballpark in the country. Nationals’ Stadium Design

Sports business reporter Tim Lemke and architecture critic Deborah K. Dietsch talk about the pros and cons of the new baseball stadium’s design.

Video by Peter Lockley, edited by Christian Fuchs

To gain the certification, the city installed special energy-efficient lights, used 20 percent recycled materials and installed a 6,300-square foot green roof beyond left field to collect rain water and filter runoff from the stadium. Also, the city installed six sand filters beneath the stadium designed to prevent stadium runoff from polluting the Anacostia.

“To have a building along the Anacostia River — the first LEED certified stadium in the country — is saying a great deal about how we care about the environment here in the District of Columbia,” Fenty said.

Officials from Metro also unveiled the newly expanded west entrance to the Navy Yard Metro, which required $20 million in federal funds and will accommodate 15,000 passengers an hour. Stadium Costs

Sports business reporter Tim Lemke discusses the costs associated with the new Nationals Stadium.

Video by Peter Lockley, edited by Christian Fuchs

“When you think about the fact that we did this project under the cost cap and on time, with 800 D.C. workers on the job, it’s amazing,” said Greg O’Dell, CEO of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. “Unfortunately, I’m too close too it sometimes to think about it. But to see the fans and to see people’s reactions, it’s great. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. Maybe a few months from now — after I get some sleep — it will.”

The work to get the stadium built was often tense, with the team’s ownership and sports commission often at odds over everything from stadium funding to parking. But yesterday was a day for acknowledging everyone’s role in getting the ballpark done.

“When I came to town two years ago, I knew we had an ambitious schedule, but that wasn’t the most daunting part of this,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said. “We also heard the many, many predictions about all the infighting … and we all worried about that. And sure, we had issues. Lots of them, all the time. There were days when we were pushing and pulling. But the predictions of the turmoil were greatly exaggerated.”

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