Nats get tour of their new stadium
Players impressed with progress, especially in clubhouse
WASHINGTON -- Ronnie Strompf has given tours of construction projects before, but never quite like this one.
Friday afternoon, the vice president of Clark Construction led a group of Nationals players and media through the new Nationals Park, showing them the playing field, concourse and the new clubhouses.
The tour was designed to show the players what had been accomplished at the stadium, which is on pace to open for the 2008 season.
As Strompf took the players into the clubhouse, he told them that Ryan Zimmerman had been there the month before. He joked with Zimmerman that for $200, he could make sure that the third baseman had a bigger locker than his teammates.
The next week, he was taking catcher Brian Schneider around. When told of the offer, Schneider offered $300 for a bigger locker than Zimmerman.
On Friday, Schneider's locker was indeed bigger than Zimmerman's, which the catcher verified with a measuring tape.
The players were in awe as they walked into their new clubhouse area. It's still just concrete and metal, but even in the early stage one thing was obvious.
"It's a little bigger than RFK," Shawn Hill said with a laugh.
The new clubhouse will have an oval shape and feature plenty of room for the players.
"I like the shape of it, the oval," Ryan Langerhans said. "It looks like there's going to be a ton of other accessories, too. A hydrotherapy area, bigger weight room, things like that. It's pretty impressive."
The tour drew plenty of attention, with a full swarm of local media on hand as well as the Discovery Channel. Danny Forster, host of the show "Build it Bigger," was spending time at the ballpark documenting the process for a future episode of the show.
"As far as baseball parks are concerned, this is going to be one of the fastest built, ever," Forster said. "It's a design-build job, where the architecture, construction and engineering is all forced together. Typically, the architects have one to two years of design before the contractors come onto the site. Here, they were only working for three months before construction began."
The show featuring Nationals Park is tentatively scheduled to air in mid-September.
As the tour moved through the facility, the players stopped to sign autographs for the construction workers, who gave the Nats a round of applause when they came onto the field. There are more than 700 workers on the site, with more being added as the project progresses.
The current priority is installing the seats. There are 1,800 seats being installed each week, and when that project is finished toward the end of the year, crews will move inside to begin working on the suites.
More than a dozen players took part in the tour, and were issued red hard hats with the team logo to wear as they toured the site. They were all impressed with how far the stadium had come in a short amount of time.
"The magnitude of the whole process is very impressive," reliever Jon Rauch said.
Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.