Looking Back: The Arlington Nationals?

From StadiumPage.com Concepts

There is a small – yet fascinating – history of professional baseball stadiums that never made it past the concept stage. This came to light yesterday again when a link started flying around the Sports blogosphere (initiated by Jonah Keri, I picked up the bandwagon at SB Nation), documenting the great history of could-have-beesn for major league spectators. It’s been so popular that the site has been going in and out of service since discovered by baseball fanatics coming out of their long winter of offseason hibernation.

While it was fun to play around with some concepts for my hometown team (the Fenway Dome seems like a horrifying idea, and I vividly remember the new Fenway concepts because it was around the time I put a “Save Fenway Park” bumper sticker on the 1997 Ford Explorer I drove to high school in downtown Phoenix), I got quickly distracted by the 2004 look back to a concept designed to lure the Montreal Expos to the Washington area, yet not in DC: Northern Virginia Stadium.

From StadiumPage.com Concepts

Now, I had little to no clue about the potential Arlington sites that had been discussed when trying to get the Expos out of Montreal and into the metro region. I wasn’t living here at the time, and being an American League guy, I had little reason to keep tabs on the Quebec club. Many Nats fan may know this story, but seven years later and knowing what we know now, I thought it’d be fun to dig some stuff up about that ditched plan.

The first resource I came across actually was a pretty definitive little piece from The Biz of Baseball, written in October 2004. William Collins and the Virginia Baseball Group were pegged at one point as a front-runner for the Expos and (something I didn’t know) had experience since it put in a post-strike bid to try and pull the Astros from Houston. There were two strong arguments against the placement of the stadium in NoVa: the first, the constant annoyance of Baltimore owner Peter Angelos (who was against even the DC-based franchise move), and the second, Arlington County locals who didn’t want to see a ballpark – and the traffic and other disruptions it brings – built in the heart of Pentagon City. Finally, the owners of the selected property saw more monetary value in mixed-use than in a single-season stadium.

None of these are extraordinary reasons when it comes to neighbor backlash against stadiums, and while there were also sites proposed further out by Dulles and even outside of the Capital region in Norfolk, the Virginia plan really lost its steam in losing the Pentagon City location. Once those became the options, it was never realistic. As a September 2004 Washington Post columnist commented, “A Virginia ownership group headed by Bill Collins also will bid [on the Expos], but the prospect of a team playing near Dulles Airport grows less appealing with each day’s rush-hour traffic reports.” On September 30, weeks after that column, baseball was given its ticket to the Capital, but it would remain inside the District, not in its neighbor across the river.

There was one really cool feature about that version of the Nats park, though, worth pointing out.

If you look in the map I screenshotted from Google Earth below, it appears to me to be in the northwest corner of the Pentagon City area, sandwiched between 395 and Route 110. The proposed site is not far from the Pentagon City Metro station – at least no further than the Navy Yard stop is from the current Nationals Park. Maybe slightly more convenient because of the different ways the blue and yellow lines wrap around the city. The charm to me is in the aesthetics: the location offered a clear view of the Lincoln Memorial, the Monument and the Capitol right in the center of an open outfield. How cool would that have been?!

From the Biz of Baseball

I’m a big fan of Nationals Park, and I tell most people who ask that while I enjoy watching baseball there, one of its charms is how fantastic that view will be some fall night when the Nationals find themselves playing October baseball. It’ll happen someday, but until then, fun to turn back the clock for when baseball was something to which DC residents were longing. Generally, they got the stadium right, and when all is said it done, it’s great that the team is playing inside the District.

Dave Levy is a PR guy by day, a media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek. He blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing digital media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references. Read why Dave loves D.C.

11 thoughts on “Looking Back: The Arlington Nationals?

  1. What view at Nats park are you talking about??

    The view of the empty office buildings, the parking garage or of the DOT building??

    I like Nats park, but I think the fact that there is NO view of any of DC’s monuments is what kills it.

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  3. Interesting. I never knew this, but I’m a 2006 transplant to the area. The Nats in Pentagon City definitely would have been fun.

    However, “but it would remain inside the District, not in its neighbor across the Anacostia.” I know I haven’t been here that long, but I’m pretty sure no part of Arlington or Virginia is across the Anacostia from the District.

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  5. I disagree with CJ. You wouldn’t see empty buildings or parking structures — the sightlines would be dominated by I-395 and all its picturesque ramps.

  6. The best article I’ve seen on NOVA vs DC getting the Expos is by Chris Jaffe in Washingtonian magazine.


    I remember the whole strung out process. The press kept saying NOVA was the favorite but in looking back, one wonders why. They didn’t have the money and every site they offered had organized resistors screaming — NIMBY!

    DC had tear down sites with less NIMBY problems.

    Thank goodness DC won because if Virginia won, the team would have been called the Virginia (nickname).

    I agree with you about the charm and views but the noise from the planes would have been no fun.

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  8. I still prefer the proposed Rosslyn stadium. Easy access to the Orange-Blue lines and the potential for a much more interesting Rosslyn.

  9. If the Expos had moved to Virginia, I would not have been surprised if the team had been renamed the Senators because D.C. voting rights has never been a problem for NOVA politicians. To be perfectly blunt, they along with (to my shame) my elected representatives in Montgomery County have been the biggest obstacles to congressional representation for the District.

    As for the view from Nats Park, you can see a better view of the U.S. Capitol from there than you can of the New York skyline from either Yankee Stadium or CitiField. The problem at Nats Park isn’t the view from the stands, it’s the play on the field. (If the view from the stands was all that mattered, the Pirates would be the best team in baseball.)

  10. Ed,

    I can’t ref a source, but it is my understanding that if Virginia got the Expos, they would have required the team be named the Virginia (nickname). And Collins said it would not be a DC type nickname, instead something associated with VA.

    The problem was Angelos, so VA’s mission was to dis-associate itself with DC. At one point, it even got ugly with people in Collins circle maligning DC.