WASHINGTON (AP) -Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten had to move a fence out of the way in the middle of the street as he made his way to his team's new ballpark.
``I apologize for this,'' Kasten said as he slid the obstacle enough for everyone to walk past. ``They truly do change the route every day.''
Nationals Park opens in less than two months, and, if Monday's tour for reporters is any indication, there is much fast and furious work to be done to make it presentable in time for the nationally televised opener against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night, March 30.
``I would say, for fans, 95 percent of what they should expect will be here opening day '08,'' Kasten said. ``We're 55 days away. We're going to make it all happen.''
oval locker room.
But there are stacks of cinder blocks where the ``baseball-themed jungle gym'' is supposed to go. Wires are dangling along certain walkways. There is wet concrete around one corner, icky mud around the next. Big red 'X's mark the spots where cherry trees will be planted beyond the left-field seats.
The site has been a beehive of workers since ground was broken in May 2006, and Kasten is confident they will get the job done.
``We have three shifts, over 1,000 people working nonstop between now and opening day,'' said Kasten, wearing a red hard hat with a Nationals curly ``W'' logo. ``They know just how to do it. It looks tough to us, the neophytes, but the pros have this under control.''
That's not to say that all will go smoothly. Not all the vendors and sponsors will be in place. Statues of local baseball greats Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard might not be erected on the outfield plaza until next season. The parking situation remains a mess.
In other words, Kasten knows better than to promise a perfect experience from Day 1. After all, he went through much of this before, having overseen the Atlanta Braves' move into Turner Field in 1997.
``We have to see how the stadium works,'' Kasten said. ``We have to see what works here, what works there. There's going to be some learning, but there's also going to be some bugs for that first homestand or so, so we're going to need everyone's patience.''
The No. 1 headache remains parking. The city is paying the hefty bill for the ballpark, but it comes with only 1,200 parking spaces. The team is literally looking for buildings to knock down in the neighborhood so it can create a piecemeal system of lots for customers. Once details can be worked out with the city, fans who don't walk or take the subway will be encouraged to park for free at RFK Stadium - two miles away - and take a free shuttle bus.
``As if this mission this year wasn't complicated enough, the whole parking thing!'' Kasten said. ``It's a dilemma that none of my 29 counterparts has to spend one second of their lives thinking about. And here we have an army of people that have spent all winter - more than all winter - acquiring lots. And we're still in the process of acquiring lots.''
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