The Single-A Fredericksburg Nationals will be hosting a virtual version of their opening day today. This was supposed to be opening day at their new, state-of-the-art facility, but all of baseball is currently in a shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The broadcast will be available on the Fredericksburg Nationals Facebook page.
The page will be live at 9 a.m. and at 5:30 p.m. will show a tour of the new ballpark, ceremonies honoring local health care workers, and presentations from Fredericksburg city dignitaries and team ownership.
Fredericksburg Nationals executive vice president and general manager Nick Hall said the stadium is ready for today’s virtual opening day, but also would have been baseball-ready had there been real baseball and fans in the stands.
“Luckily where we are at, at least with Virginia, construction is still deemed as essential business. The construction progress has gone off without a hitch,” Hall said. “We have not slowed down, but if anything, we have tried to speed up a little bit because of everything else that is going on around us.
“For the front offices, about (four) weeks ago now we moved our operations to strictly to at home. We have been working from home waiting the clearance from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), WHO (World Health Organization), local health municipalities, but also Major and Minor League Baseball. When we get the go-ahead our plan is to be ready to go with at the drop of a hat. Right now, if we were to be playing (tonight) we would be ready to go. The turf is officially down. The finishing touches went in (last week).”
Normally, projects of this magnitude need more than a year to complete, but in January, Hall said that the construction team had finished a good amount of the work in a span of seven months. The stadium will be able to seat 4,800 and can move up in capacity for standing-room-only availability.
“The seating bowl is completely done,” Hall said. “We have our 25-foot-by-60-foot jumbotron ready in right field. We have 160 feet of LED inside the left field wall. Everything is beautiful and everything is finished when you are sitting in your seat looking out (onto the field).”
Hall said that if the team had been playing this week, the FredNats would have been ready with food and beverage options on the concourse.
“The concession buildings will not be finished in time (for tonight),” Hall said last week. “Most of our concession stands will be tents and food trucks for the first part of season. The bathrooms may be more of a portable situation. All of our amenities around the stadium won’t be quite finished (today).”
Hall said every day the shutdown continues actually helps the team get closer to completing work on fan services facilities on the concourse. The upper levels, the club level and the suites will not be ready at close of business tonight, but Hall said he hopes they could be finished by June or July.
“I can’t say exactly what opening day is going to look like because I don’t know when that will be,” he said. “But with that in mind, we are ready to play baseball when we are told that it is safe.”
Hall said the parking area was the first thing that was finished, because construction workers needed a place to park before they got to work. The ownership group runs the nearby expo center, so that parking lot can be used on game days as well.
A stone wall runs along the backstop and out to the baseline dugouts, and another adorns the stadium’s front entrance box office and team store.
“Our friends at the Stone Center have really hooked us up with amazing finishes around a few different areas of the ballpark,” Hall said. “That stone will go behind home plate and will also go behind the concourse behind home plate as well. Just about eight rows up there is a walking concourse. That stone will also be located at the front entrance of the stadium.”
The home and away clubhouses are located outside the left field foul pole beyond the left field wall and corner. Hall said these clubhouses will provide players with everything they need to prepare for each day and then shower and use the workout areas postgame.
“They are definitely going to be state of the art,” Hall said. “They are definitely going to be nicer than before and are going to be massive in size. They will be very comfortable. Each coach will have their own office, which I think is a really cool factor when it comes to the clubhouses. They are going to have all the great amenities. There is a nice whirlpool in there. We have already picked out the lockers and the padded chairs for each of the players.”