Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Most area residents interviewed yesterday said they preferred the sleek glass-and-steel design of the new Nationals’ baseball stadium to the vintage look of those in nearby Baltimore and elsewhere in the country.

“I’m glad they didn’t go with the standard retro-brick design like [Oriole Park at] Camden Yards,” said James Hanna, 39, of Southeast. “I think the glass will make for some very interesting views.”

Donna Thiel, 48, of Silver Spring, agreed but also took a more balls-and-strikes approach.

“I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t look like a federal building, more in keeping with the stones-and pillars look like Soldier Field in Chicago [but] I’m glad it’s not a replica of Camden Yards. We already have our own brick-and-ivy stadium in D.C. How far is it to left field?”

The answer would be 322 feet to the foul pole and 377 feet to the left-field power ally. After all, the Nationals are getting used to playing in the pitcher-friendly RFK Stadium, said team President Tony Tavares.

Other residents plowing through the windy downtown yesterday were looking beyond the aesthetics and dimensions of the 41,000-seat stadium to be built between South Capitol and First streets in Southeast.

“This offers tremendous opportunities for tourists,” said Lillian Karuri-Magero, owner of Shimba Hills Coffee in the Verizon Center. “From a commercial standpoint, I think it’s good for the city. As a D.C.-based business owner, I’m happy to see it in [and] I hope to open a store there.”

Miss Karuri-Magero, 33, called the design of the $611 million stadium by HOK Sports of Kansas City, Mo., and District-based Devrouax & Purnell “beautiful,” “out there” and “interesting.”

John Heffron, 53, of Alexandria, said the nation’s capital should have a distinguished stadium.

“I think it’s a good thing for the city,” he said. “It’s good when a renewal project tears down old and unsightly buildings and constructs new ones.”

Cliff Callahan, of Arlington, said he grew up in San Diego and watched a stadium help revive a struggling downtown.

“I’m a big Padres fan,” said Mr. Callahan, 45, who was jogging on the mall. “If it does for downtown [D.C.] what it did for San Diego, it’ll be great.”

However, Northwest resident Clarence Campbell said the money could have been better spent.

“It seems rather grandiose,” said Mr. Campbell, 50. “Given all the things that are happening with the city, socially and with the kids in schools,…it just seems a little grand. They actually could’ve used RFK and saved a lot of money. People have this really grandiose scheme for development that’s going to bolster development in Southeast and that really is quite questionable.”

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