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Nationals meet and greet at the new ballpark
Nationals meet and greet at the new ballpark

ABOVE: An artist's rendering shows the completed project, expected to be a state-of-the-art facility when it opens for play next spring. The stadium will cost $611 million. LEFT: The green grass and well-groomed infield is a long ways off, though. Construction on the stadium's superstructure continues at a brisk pace. The field is expected to be graded in July and the turf should be installed this fall.
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Date published: 1/30/2007




--The skeleton of the Nationals' to-be-completed stadium loomed over Ryan Zimmerman's shoulders and a huge crane hung overhead as Washington's third basemen stood on a patch of dirt somewhere between South Capitol and First streets.

He took a few swings with a bat, guessing where home plate might if the stadium opens on schedule in 2008.

"It's not hard to imagine," Zimmerman said, gazing around the rising ballpark. "You look around and you start to see a stadium. It's exciting."

The Nationals' $611 million stadium was certainly still a work in progress yesterday as Zimmerman, outfielder Nook Logan and pitcher Mike O'Connor toured the construction site and briefly visited with construction workers during the final day of the team's 12-city winter caravan.

But it wasn't hard to see a stadium rising amidst the steel, concrete and dirt.

Steel work started in October, and the bowl of the stadium is now clearly discernible, with the frame already stretching as high as the upper concourse behind home plate.

A tunnel leading to home plate is visible from the infield, and the cutouts for both dugouts hint at the ballpark the site will eventually become.

What will eventually be the infield of the ballpark--and where Zimmerman was hoping home plate might be--was littered with debris, workers and cranes, but in just more than 14 months, the area will look very different.

Thanks to a mild winter, progress has been quick and the ballpark is on schedule to be completed for opening day 2008, said Ronnie Strompf, Clark Construction's senior project superintendent.

With little snow, wind and rain have been the only weather factors holding up construction of the stadium. High winds temporarily halted steel work yesterday morning.

"Right now we don't see any real hitches," Strompf said. "It looks like we are going to continue on track here and we are dedicated to doing that. We've got contingency plans if we need it, but hopefully we don't need it. We will play baseball in 2008. We are looking forward to it."

Construction began May 5 on the 41,000-seat stadium, and by the time it's done, team officials are hoping to unveil a state-of-the-art ballpark that fits with Washington's monumental architecture.

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