Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Accessibility Review: Nationals Park

I am not sure what the parking situation is like at Nationals Park, as I have never gone to a game here any other way than taking the Metro. Since I am so familiar with going to the Nats games via the Metro this was the one game we did not even try to park near the park and just parked at one of the Park & Ride lots at the end of the Green Line. Sure getting on the Metro after the game is a little congested, but by staying on the Green Line and going away from the city after the game we avoided the biggest crowds going the other direction and the transferring at L’Enfant Plaza, which I am used to having lived on the Yellow Line, but can be annoying with a wheelchair due to the elevator configuration at L’Enfant Plaza. By the way if you have to transfer to the Yellow from the Green, especially if you need to use an elevator, do it at Archives/Navy Memorial because the platform is in the middle and not a split one like at L’Enfant.

Anyways for the most part the Metro is pretty good accessibility wise, as we have very rarely experienced people using the elevator that do not need to. Also, after the game they make sure that those that need the wheelchair turnstile get through it before those that do not need it. I was afraid it was going to take longer to get into the station because we could not use the SmartTrip express lane due to not being accessible and I did not bring my third SmartTrip card, but the wheelchair lane ends up being an even better express lane for those that truly need it. While I love the D.C. Metro it does have issues with elevators regularly, so be sure to check you check the status of the stations you are going to be at (start, end, and transfer stations) before you use it.

Getting into Nationals Park was very easy because we were there when they first opened the gates. They often only open the side gates at the Centerfield gate and each side only has one line, which leads to an entrance that is accessible. I think even the line of turnstiles they open up later has space for a wheelchair to go through between each turnstile, especially since the turnstiles can be moved since they are moved entirely out of the way by the end of the game.

Our tickets for the game were for section 224. We did not sit very long before finding out we were going to get to see the game from the Diamond Club, but we were here long enough to know what the view is like. The handicap seats in 224 are located below the upper deck seats with their own access, so you do not get people going by to get to their seats other than the relatively few in the handicap row. The view from 224 is good, as you can see the whole field. Higher in the section part of the right field is blocked from view, but from the handicap row there is very little of it blocked. The view of the scoreboard is also great from here, although you do have to look to the right and away from the action to look at it.

The elevator up to the 224 seats really is up to the seats and you have to go back down one or two levels to get to any concessions, but the elevators do not seem to be used by those that do not need them. By the way I had season tickets in the regular 224 last year and used to go by the elevators to the stairs and it really is hidden enough that people that do not even use the stairs here much less the elevators.

We ended up spending most of our time at Nationals Park sitting in the Diamond Club. Here we had a table with a behind home plate view. The tables have chairs that can be moved out of the way and Mik could easily roll up and have a good spot to use the table and view the game. The table made it possible for Mik to feed himself the whole time. Sometimes at the ballparks Dad has to feed him, since it is sometimes hard for him to hold the plate/bowl/whatever and eat what is in it at the same time. He also liked the table because he could have his iPod, PSP, and whatever other entertainment all out in front of him without having to keep asking us to switch stuff out of the bag for him.

Overall Nationals Park is a great modern ballpark in terms of accessibility and amenities. It might not have some of the unique character things that make its architecture stand out of have a lot of special statues to see, but it is very accessible as one would hope for and actually expect from a still pretty new ballpark. They do not exactly have a great team, but it is still always fun to see a game at Nationals Park and I am glad that Mik enjoyed it from the start, as he was already enjoying the view when we were in 224. Of course, I am a little biased being a Nats fan, but there is no denying that it ranks near the top if not the top in accessibility.

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