Friday, March 18, 2011

National Park, Home of Baseball's Washington Nationals, Destroyed in Fire

The home of the American League's Washington Nationals, National Park, was destroyed in a fire yesterday morning.  The fire started at 11:30 am local, reducing the grand stands and other associated building to debris and ashes and spreading to a nearby lumber yard owned by the Eisinger Bros. company.  The fire comes just three weeks before the Nationals are expected to start their season at home against the Boston Red Sox.  The cost of the damage to the two properties is estimated at $25,000.

A few hours after the disaster, Thomas Noyes, the president of the Washington Nationals, announced that a new, steel structures would be constructed as soon as possible to replace the destroyed, wooden bleachers.  "Without a moment's delay, we formulated a course of action," Noyes told the Washington Herald.  "Speed was imperative, for, with a game for April 12 [opening day against Boston], and with Washington fandom depending upon us, we realized that not a moment was to be lost."

The team has hired a crew to begin work this morning to clear out the debris left by the fire.  A group of structural steel engineers from the Osborn Steel Company of Cleveland, Ohio will begin working on plans today for building new, steel grandstands and bleachers.  Actual construction work should begin within two weeks.  By opening day on April 12, it is hoped that the construction will be far enough along that temporary seats can be put in place to allow spectators to see their Washington Nationals take on the Red Sox.  American League president Ban Johnson is expected in Washington tomorrow to discuss the team's plans to quickly replace the damaged stadium.  When completed, the new stadium should be able to seat 15,000 spectators, twice the capacity of the old, wooden stadium.

While construction is underway, the Nationals, after returning from training camp in Atlanta, will likely play their exhibition games at either Union League Park, Fifteenth and H Streets northeast, or on the White Lot.  Nationals Manager Jimmy McAleer told reporters at Nationals training camp in Atlanta that he would be opposed to playing at Union League Park if the new National Park is not ready by opening day.  Instead, he would support changing the team's home games in April to road games, start the season at Boston.  He then suggested starting home games in June.  We will certainly have to see if the new stadium can be constructed in time.

Link: Steel Stands to be Erected at Ball Park [The Washington Herald]
Link: Grandstands and Bleachers Go in Mysterious Fire at Ball Grounds [The Washington Times]
Link: Big Fire at Baseball Park is Talk of Nationals' Training Camp [The Washington Herald]

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