The Phillies certainly felt welcome on a very cold night, blasting the Nats for a 12-0 lead behind Jamie Moyer, after which Clay Condrey was told to pitch the last three, giving up just two runs (fairly impressive for him). All the people I was with were wimps and left at various points from the bottom of the 6th to the top of the 8th, so I spent the last few minutes of the game wandering around the park. I can't say I was impressed.
My very first impression of the place was that it felt unwelcoming: huge expanses of white/gray concrete punctuated by bland silver metal fixtures. Yes, the seats were blue, but especially as many were folded up empty they didn't really break up the monotony. The super spiffy scoreboards seemed like a good idea at first glance - the mammoth main board and a good sized out of town board are both huge LCD screens. But it soon developed that while they are shinier than the older electric looking displays in Philadelphia, and combine all the data you could want in one really easy to find spot, they are also a lot easier to flip to ads every half inning, which was pretty irritating.
Next complaint (oh the list goes on): The basic layout of the seating is annoying. The park in Philadelphia is known mostly for being small, almost to the point of silliness. But partially because of that and partially by separate design it's also cozy. The seating goes straight up, which is noticeable, but you really notice it in the main concourse, with the field very close and the ceiling very high. DC is very much the opposite, with a vast bowl on the 100 level. It's almost laid out like Shea, except that the upper levels don't have the same elegant lines, rather being made up of several small levels stacked on each other, many consisting of boxes. The main concourse is very wide and low, which feels unwelcoming and really emphasizes the concrete material used in the place. And behind home plate, they have a massive structure holding luxury boxes on every level, which blocks views of the field from all concourses and is very fan unfriendly.
Citizens Bank Park is not well known for its creativity. In fact many people pan it for its lack of creativity and boring red brick and green metal look. They have a point, but I think the park is comfy and some things, like Ashburn Alley and the stacked bullpens, as least show flashes of inspiration. Nationals Park is not just uncreative but also cold, uninviting, and totally uninspired. Although it does have a Five Guys in it.
And the Presidents' Race is great. I think the Nationals are trying, as a ballclub, to be fan friendly and creative. They have to be to build their fan base. But I think fans are going to be gagging on the ballpark for a very long time. (This is, of course, a first impression.) On the other hand, it's not RFK (I kind of liked RFK, honestly - must go to a DC United game there), and maybe it will be good enough for fans who know nothing better.
In happier news, I leave you with this:
Me: The Lionhead kitten
looks like it belongs in an anime.
Marie: I think it looks like an alien.
Me: These aren't mutually exclusive.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, the wave of the future: Adorable Anime Bunnies FROM SPACE!
(Yes Mark, we know.)