This past week some good Nats news has been reported. No, Bryce Harper hasn’t become a Redskins fan (for his sake, it might not be something we want), and it wasn’t revealed that Strasburg‘s UCL was actually replaced with enchanted carbon nanotubes. Instead, some plans were revealed to improve the area around Nationals Park.

Currently the area, while not horrible, isn’t a place where people hang out, and that is a shame. Having a good area near the ballpark is important – whether its the family oriented atmosphere around Camden Yards or the great bar/restaurant scene around the Verizon Center, the neighborhood can really improve the experience of going to the game. And it can convince more people to spend the day trekking down to the stadium.

From Bullpen to Fairgrounds

Most fans are familiar with the Bullpen just north of the stadium, that area in between the LF entrance and the metro station. It’s basically an empty parking lot with some taps, and its open for a few hours starting before and ending after games, on game days only. It’s fairly adequate for drinking, but it’s atmosphere isn’t especially inviting. It was called a beer garden, but it was a pretty poor representation of what a good one should be. And the latest post on the website seemed to show an improved Das Bullpen from last year. However, the Bullpen is apparently being replaced with the less-confusing-to-meet-someone-at Fairgrounds.

The Fairgrounds is an interesting concept – that sounds nothing like what I picture a fairground to look like. It will use salvaged shipping containers to house restaurants and merchants that will be open 7 days a week. Also involved in this project is Bo Blair, who currently owns Das Bullpen – he also owns Jetties and a few other places. He’ll be putting in food truck versions of two of his restaurants, Bayou and Surfside. There will be alcohol served here, too, and a permanent bar put in.

According to the great JDLand website (where I got all my info on this) which covers this area better than anyone, “This space will open at 11:30 am every day; on game days, the market and food trucks will remain open until two hours after the game ends; otherwise, it will stay open at least through Happy Hour, or later if patrons are still around.” This is a big change, it turns from what is basically a pre-drink spot to get in some cheap(er) beers before entering the stadium into a real destination.

This is going to help transform this area into a neighborhood that people are interested in seeing. This makes it easier to bring families down to the game early and hang out. Remember that not every fan out there can go to 3 or 4 games a year – and its not just the money, its the time commitment, its the traveling, its the hassle. So a once a season trip is enough for people, this kind of thing makes that more likely for those sorts of people, and that can only help sell more tickets and fill the stands.

By Charlie