The name “Nationals Park” was supposed to temporary–a placeholder before some corporate behemoth threw millions of dollars at the Lerner family to rename it.
Well, timing is everything in life. When the stadium opened in 2008, corporate behemoths didn’t want to spend any money, much less the tens of millions it would cost to rename a stadium. And since then, the momentum to advertise on stadium names has somewhat slowed as corporations rethink the wisdom of naming rights.
So, here we are. Five years later and the home of the Washington Nationals is stuck with a bland and generic name. It’s well past time to rebrand and give the park a distinctive name–something known and associated with the team throughout the country.
Fenway Park is nationally known as the Red Sox home. Same with Wrigley. The words Camden Yards are immediately associated with the Orioles. Even the bland sounding Yankee Stadium is so established its distinctive; people just call it The Stadium.
Corporate names are not necessarily bad things, as long as they’re long term (example: Wrigley). It’s an added bonus if the corporation is uniquely associated with the city, like Busch Stadium in St. Louis or Target Field in Minneapolis. The worst case scenario is a short-term corporate name or a name forced to change due to bankruptcy or corporate buyouts (examples: Enron Field or Bank One Ballpark). Banks should be avoided.
In Washington D.C., the biggest “corporation” is the Federal government, and I don’t see them buying the naming rights to a baseball stadium. There are no other obvious corporate candidates associated with DC like Coors Brewing is associated with Denver, for example.
Nor am I hoping for a corporate name. Target Field sounds kind of cool, but most corporate names are lifeless like AT&T Park. I doubt the Indians fans enjoy the name Progressive Field, even though the company is based in Ohio.
The Nationals could opt for something distinctive to the city or location of the stadium. Capitol Park sounds cool. So does South Capitol Park, since the stadium is located on South Capitol Street.
My favorite idea is to simply rename the stadium National Park. It’s sounds cleaner and rolls of the tongue easier than Nationals Park. It also plays to the idea that the stadium is the home of the team playing the national game in the nations capital. It also honors history. Boundary Field (below) the home of the the Washington Senators from 1891-1911 was referred to as “National Park”. Dropping the plural from a stadium name isn’t unusual. The Orioles use Oriole Park in the name of their stadium.
Detractors might say a change is unnecessary, especially a small one like dropping the letter “s”. But sometimes the best changes are the simple ones. Doesn’t “Facebook” sound better than “The Facebook”?
We have Justin Timberlake to thank for that.