- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2011

The worries about long waits and crowds on Metrorail to attend Opening Day at Nationals Park were largely replaced this year with concerns about staying warm and dry.

“Everything seems to be fine so far,” Metro spokesman Steve Taubenkibel said as fans left the stadium Thursday after the Nationals’ 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. “Given the fact this is the fourth year, a lot of fans are accustomed to going to the games. They know the drill in terms of getting there, anticipate there will be crowds and know where to stand on the platforms.”

Fans bundled in everything from blankets to earmuffs to Nats warmup jackets began arriving in force about an hour before the 1:05 p.m. start and continued to stream through the stadium turnstiles more than 30 minutes after the first pitch.

Much of the crowd took public transportation, hoping to avoid the mid-day downtown traffic.

“Everyone I’ve talked to says parking is a nightmare,” said D.C. resident Maria Llorente, who took Metro. “It is so much easier.”

Julio Melendez of Arlington agreed.

“I’ve driven before, but it was easier taking the Metro,” he said after exiting the Navy Yard station. “It wasn’t that crowded until I got off.”

Despite the 40-degree temperatures and occasional drizzle, the riverfront stadium still looked and sounded like Opening Day. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray was widely booed when he took the field to deliver the ceremonial call to “play ball.” And when prized newcomer Jason Werth got the Nationals’ first base hit, the crowd erupted.

“The weather wasn’t going to stop me,” said Tim Walker, 23, of Alexandria. “I still want to come out and support the team in rough weather and hopefully see a win.”

Nationals officials reported the official attendance as 39,055. The Metropolitan Police Department reported no major incidents.

Some fans grumbled that planned restaurants and retail stores that were supposed to be in place for crowds spilling out after games have yet to open in the area.

“I am hoping that they set it up kind of like Camden Yards,” said Samantha Peele of Ashburn, Va., referring to the Baltimore Orioles’ stadium 30 miles north. “That would make it more of a fun place to hang out before and after games.”

Mr. Walker didn’t seem to mind. He said he was satisfied with the tent area outside the stadium known as The Bullpen that features live music and serves food and drinks.

“It’s a great place to hang out,” he said. “They have great food, great beer. What else do you need?”

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