All around the city—in the windows of restaurants, on the side of Metro buses, and on top of lampposts—are reminders that this has been no ordinary summer for D.C. sports.
Just a month ago, the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history and thousands of fans flooded the streets in elation and disbelief. On Monday, D.C. United had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its brand new, $400-million dollar home, Audi Field, which will host its inaugural game on Saturday. Recently-acquired international superstar Wayne Rooney is set to make his debut on the same day.
And starting Friday, the District will welcome Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week that culminates in the All-Star Game on July 17. It’ll be the first time since 1969 that the Midsummer Classic is coming to town.
“We have had a very big week in sports in Washington, D.C. and indeed a great month,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday at a press conference inside Nationals Park. “At the nation’s capital, we are used to supporting large events like this one. We do it whether we’re welcoming the pope or having the inauguration of the president or inviting a million women to our city.”
In order to prepare for the week, the city is spending approximately $4.5 million, most of which is for “overtime and personnel deployment to support the event,” said D.C. city administrator Rashad Young, who was also in attendance at Nats Park. He added that the city is expecting a $70 million economic return.
What separates this week from other large sporting events is the length and amount of activities that will take place around D.C., and the fact that people from over the world will be traveling into the city to see the best players in baseball. In addition to the signature events: the Home Run Derby, the Legends and Celebrities Softball Game, and the All-Star Game, there will be a fan festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and several concerts.
As a result, commuters should expect road closures and Metro will be operating on extended hours. Bowser encouraged anyone traveling during the week to plan ahead and visit sportscapital.dc.gov or text 888-777 to receive updates and alerts.
For D.C. police chief Peter Newsham, the fact that the raucous celebrations after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final ended in not much more than lots of trash strewn across the streets means that D.C. is ready for the busy week ahead.
“Washington, D.C. has proven that we can execute a safe, fun, high-profile sporting event for a national audience,” he said at the press conference. “I do not anticipate anything different here.”
“At this time, there are no credible threats to the nation’s capital during All-Star Week,” he added.
MLB announced D.C. as the host city in 2015, and the All-Star Game has special meaning for the Lerner family, who own the Nationals. Ted Lerner, 92, attended and kept a scorecard from the 1937 game at Griffith Stadium and his son, Mark, told Thomas Boswell of The Washington Postat the time of the announcement that his family wanted to bring the game back to D.C. in part to honor his father.
With all of the developments around the city, Bowser and other officials are giddy about putting the District on a global stage. Marla Miller, MLB’s senior vice president of special events, has been to 29 All-Star Games and overseen the operational and logistics aspects of All-Star Week since 1998. She believes D.C. stands out for several reasons.
“I think for one, it’s a destination around the world,” Miller says. “It’s our nation’s capital, so as a result, it offers certain amenities and infrastructure that don’t exist in cities that are smaller, that don’t have as many hotel rooms, restaurants, size of the convention center, national parks, and various other iconic spots. This is an iconic city and everyone is very excited.”
But amid all of the excitement is the fact the sounds and sights of construction surround every corner of the stadium. On Tuesday, construction workers were putting in asphalt on Half Street in front of the Navy Yard Metro station in Southeast and cranes littered the sky. Unfinished buildings and projects lined the street for blocks.
When asked by a reporter if city officials planned any beautification initiatives, Bowser grew visibly annoyed.
“We’re pretty beautiful already, thank you,” she interrupted, before adding, “Landscaping? I think we’re very proud of how we present to the world. And I think you can see, even in parts of the city, we were in Audi Field that had been industrial, but now has different uses [that] are showing up very nicely.”
Just a few blocks away from Nationals Park are restaurants that sprouted up due to economic development in the area. Bluejacket, a restaurant and brewery that opened up in 2013, has seen an increase in patrons due to the recent sporting events and success of the local teams.
General manager Doug Tuttle expects to be fully staffed throughout the week. The restaurant will open every day starting at 9 a.m. and the brewers, in particular, will be extra busy (“We expect the beer consumption to go through the roof,” he says). There are also plans to bring in eight to 10 additional staffers per day to help with the extra workload—not that Tuttle minds any of this. Sports equal business.
“I think after the Caps win, there has certainly been more optimism [for D.C. sports],” he says. “I think people have been drawn to it a lot more. [Even with the] Nats’ current struggle, we haven’t really seen crowds go down. It’s been consistently busy. People are excited about sports again. It’s nice to be a winner.”