Business View Magazine interviews Jonathan Stahl, Vice President of Ballpark Operations for Nationals Park, as part of our focus on American venues.
Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, is a ten-year baseball stadium along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The ballpark cost $693 million to build, with an additional $84.2 million spent on transportation, art, and infrastructure upgrades. Of that amount, $611 million was financed by the District of Columbia as part of the deal that was structured to bring major league baseball back to the nation’s capital city in 2005. Opening Day in 2008 drew in 42,744 fans to watch the Washington Nationals defeat the Atlanta Braves 3 to 2.
In addition to being the home of the National League’s Eastern division team, Nationals Park hosts other types of events, such as corporate meetings and concerts, and according to Jonathan Stahl, Vice President of Ballpark Operations, even weddings and bar mitzvahs. “If somebody can dream of it, we try to make it work in the ballpark,” he says. The park is also the first LEED-certified major professional sports stadium in the United States. The content of the building materials used contained a minimum of 10 percent recycled content; its roof materials offer a high degree of reflectance, minimizing the amount of heat released to the environment; and water conserving plumbing fixtures used throughout the stadium save an estimated 3.6 million gallons of water per year, reducing overall water consumption by 30 percent. These and other energy saving characteristics helped it earn a LEED-Silver certification.
Since opening, Stahl says that there have been continuous improvements and upgrades. “We always look to make innovative enhancements, every year,” he states. “A lot of that is based upon our fans’ requests and the need to stay current with changing technology. We’ve renovated our PNC Diamond Club and our center field Budweiser Brewhouse Restaurant. We’ve added additional bars around the building as well as redesigned concession stands to help improve line speed. We’ve built one of the largest team stores in major league baseball. We’ve added additional video boards and upgraded the televisions; we’ve enhanced the Wi-Fi network and the DAS cellular phone network. In 2015 we renovated our green roof to have a 6,000-square-foot garden. We use the produce from the roof in some of our clubs. We also converted some of our suites into theater boxes and reconfigured others to create small, exclusive clubs.”
“And we’re always looking at ways to make this ballpark more green-friendly and sustainable,” Stahl continues. “We have a composting program within the building that drives diverting waste from the landfill. A unique part of our composting program is we’re sending it to a local composting facility and its getting re-introduced back into the D.C. community by folks who can purchase that material at a home and garden center to use for their plantings. Being part of a change like that is very exciting for us.”
“And we have an extraordinary amount of recycling. If there’s a trash can in this building, there’s a recycling can right next to it. We’ve tried to do a good job of educating our fan base about what the appropriate disposal methods are because we want to make sure that we’re making a positive impact on the environment. Being LEED-certified has been a big driver of some of the decisions we’ve made and how we operate. We’ve converted a lot of the building to LED lighting, and are continuing to do more. We’re always looking at opportunities as to how we can be more sustainable in our daily operations.”
Stahl believes that one of the additional benefits of Nationals Park being situated where it is has been what it has meant to the neighborhood around it. “When you look at the area where we are in southeast D.C., Nationals Park was the catalyst that has created one of the most booming areas in Washington, D.C. to date,” he declares. “If you look at the number of apartment buildings and restaurants and office buildings – the changing demographic – it’s an area that many people never wanted to travel to and has now become one of the hottest destinations to live, work, and eat in; not just during baseball season, but year round. It’s a great example of how a major venue can be the catalyst to drive change in a neighborhood that’s been underserved in the community.”
Nationals Park has been designated to host Major League’s 89th All-Star Game in 2018, and with the Nationals playing as well as they have this past season, D.C.’s baseball fans have their best chance in a long time of watching the first World Series played in the nation’s capital since 1933. So even though there are views of the U.S. Capitol Building from the stadium’s upper deck, and during day games, fans who sit near the right field foul pole can get a glimpse of the Washington Monument, these days, the best sights are down on the playing field.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Nationals Park
WHAT: Home stadium of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
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