Farewell Fairgrounds?


A reader writes:

“I’m lamenting the potential end of the Bullpen/Fairgrounds…

Used to be cheaper, but it’s still a great place for a pre- or postgame meet up and awesome on nice days to grab a cold one before hitting the stadium just a minute away.”

Will you miss the Fairgrounds too? With all the new spots opening up around Navy Yard where’s your favorite spot to go before/after a game?


56 Comment

  • This is super sad news. I would hate to see it close.

  • I will 100% miss the Fairgrounds, but I definitely understand it is time for it to go. It really filled a void these past 6 years and was a great place to gather. It was our version of tailgating, and I think it really added to the atmosphere of the stadium, even though it was just a parking lot with shipping containers that printed money for a less than stellar owner. I love Bluejacket, but it is always packed around games. I hope with all the new openings, there will actually be places to at least stand in a bar before/after a game.

  • I’ll miss it terribly. There needs to be a place to gather before games, have plain beer, and guarantee that you can stay for 20 min as everyone arrives and get to the game. The other places around are too crowded and too hard to just order a beer, drink it, and get a move on. Just give me my big can of shandy with somewhere to stand and not get elbowed, and I’ll be so happy. Love baseball!

    • Agreed. It’s the place you hang out while waiting for everyone to arrive. Blue Jacket etc. is not right at the metro or stadium, so not as convenient and not nearly as spacious. I’m personally a fan of going into the stadium early and hanging at the bar at the top of the escalators in the outfield but if everyone is arriving at different times and some don’t have their tickets yet but don’t want to stand in line at will call, then to the Bullpen/Fairgrounds. It’s convenient, and who doesn’t like convenience.

  • I always thought it looked like a AAA or temporary space. It’s basically some shipping containers placed into a rectangle. I’m not a posh, materialistic person usually, but it never looked like the kind of thing you’d expect to be across the street from a playoff caliber baseball team.

    • what are you talking about? baseball is a quintessential blue collar sport. the best ballpark spots are basic blue collar shrines to their teams – cubby bear, cask n flagon, pickles. the fairgrounds was by no means an awesome bar, but i don’t know level of sophistication you’re expecting near a ballpark.

      • I could have been more clear, admittedly. I don’t mean a posh, ritzy place. I mean not an empty parking lot surrounded by shipping containers in lieu of any actual construction.

        Thanks for assuming I’m wholly unfamiliar with baseball, and, by extension, America, though.

        • The Bullpen was always meant to be temporary. It was an adaptive use of the site by the developer to make some money waiting for the market to justify building the actual commercial building they bought the space to build.

          It used to have loftier ambitions similar to the one in Brooklyn – with artists markets and such, but got reduced to a place for baseball people to drink.

          I’m still not sure where the market is for the Wharf down the street when there’s so much vacant land with proposed buildings / an empty building already built / empty floors in Navy Yard.

          • Exactly. And my initial point was that temporary-ness showed, in a way that felt bush-league, at least to me.

    • To me, it is DC’s version of tailgating. I used to love tailgating before/after Brewers games in Milwaukee. I think it is perfect for being near a stadium.

  • justinbc

    No, I would never go there to buy terrible beer when Bluejacket and Justin’s Cafe sell a far better product (and for less).

    • randomduck

      ^^^ This, in a nutshell. The beer, the crowds, the overall “I could be somewhere far better walking 5 minutes north or east” reality – it’s why, even though I’m a season ticket holder, I avoided the Fairground.

      Yes, it did fill a void when nothing was built up in the area, but that ship has sailed.

  • palisades

    The only thing keeping that place alive was the proximity to the stadium. Beer is awful and way too expensive. It is gross and the portapotties are disgusting. Also, the cornhole made your hands smell like you had been swimming in sewage.
    If the plans for the area are true, then plenty more bars will be opening around the stadium, which should make up for an opportunity to grab a beer without being in a crowded area.

  • I miss the old set up where half of space was The Bullpen and the other half was a German Beer Garden.

    Those were the days.

  • Best Nats pre-gaming spot? The PNC Diamond Club. 🙂

    • HA, very true. Can’t beat the price of beer in there! Wish I could score those tickets more than once every couple of years.

  • A lot of people like Fairgrounds and a lot of people hate it for competing reasons. I’m rather indifferent towards it, but for the life of me, I don’t understand proponents who lament its passing because they won’t have anywhere to get cheap pregame beer. 7 dollars for a Miller Lite it NOT cheap! Walk into any other neighborhood alcohol purveyor, save for Osteria Morini, and you’ll find Miller and Bud listed at LESS than what the Fairgrounds operators charge for it. Defend it for other reasons if you want, but stop falsely believing that there won’t be anywhere else to get piss water beer for under 7 dollars.

    • Heck even Nats park is cheaper before the first pitch.

    • hooville

      As the original lamenter, I just meant it USED to be cheaper, full stop. Not that it was cheap and now I can’t find cheap shitty beer anywhere. It used to be cheaper. There’s plenty of other places for cheap shit beer, but not so close to the stadium, and not with the easy in/out and I do like meeting up with friends there before and after. I’m certainly not there because of the drink prices.

      • Fair enough. It did used to be cheaper, you’re right. And it’s a great gathering place, that’s for sure. I just think once enough time passes and enough new bars open on Half Street itself, there will still be plenty of places to congregate outdoors on patios. Could be a crowded couple years for existing local bars until that happens though.

  • I’m shocked that it lasted this long. They were always living on borrowed time, year to year. No way that an undeveloped parcel that big was going to last. Had the recession not stalled both of the lots lining Half St the Bullpen probably wouldn’t have seen 2010. And, yes, there are far better options a short walk away, but there was something about the crowds on big game days that was awesome if you were just meeting a group of friends before heading in, or waiting out the Metro crush after last pitch, or watching a Caps playoff game after baseball was done for the day. The beer selection was always poor (although they always had at least one acceptable offering, these days it’s down to Urquell I think), but in the early days I remember it was $5-6 for a beer which made up for some of that. With beer prices the same as inside the park there’s not much reason to go there any more. To be fair I’ve found Justin’s to be a shit show unless you get there early enough.

    • Let’s be honest. Without the recession, the Bullpen would not have existed, period.

      • From what I heard that’s not entirely true. When the Bullpen was just that little lot closest to the stadium in year one I think they didn’t expect to be around the following summer. When it was clear nothing was going to happen with the larger project planned for the site they were able to negotiate the tear down of the bus depot to expand while the owner collected rent and waited for the market to recover. It just went on longer than anybody thought it would.

    • It was created to be temporary by the developer waiting to build. I’m surprised more people don’t know that. The transiency of the containers that can be picked up quite quickly should have clued people in if they didn’t know the back story.

  • brookland_rez

    It was only a matter of time. Back before the financial crisis it was supposed to be “Half Street” development or something. The plans got canceled once the crisis hit.

  • jim_ed

    Eh, I’m kind of torn on it. I won’t miss the fairgrounds itself, and I’m excited for more dense infill there, but the Fairgrounds did serve a great purpose of filling a massive void by the ballpark when the recession hit of giving people somewhere fun to hangout pre and post-game. Also, while I really love some of the neighborhood bars like Justins Cafe, sometimes I just want to cut loose and volume drink American macro-lager outside in the sunshine before or after the game without worrying about being too loud with friends, something I hope another venue will replicate once the Fairgrounds closes.

  • I can see why people liked the Fairgrounds – it held a lot of people, it was outside, it was easy to get in and out, even when it was crowded it was so open it didn’t feel claustrophobic, and the beer was (used to be) cheap, and there were so many stalls you didn’t have to wait in line long.

    The big problem as I see it is there aren’t enough places yet to hold this many people before and after games. The bars in the area are already packed before/after games, and that’s with the 1000 people standing in the Fairgrounds. Those people are going to be packing all the nearby bars, and there won’t be enough space. Maybe in a few years, but not yet.

    And, it’s going to be hard to open enough bars to get that capacity, since half the year there aren’t Nats games. The other good thing about Fairgrounds is it didn’t have to keep busy during the winter to stay profitable.

  • Folks, $6 Miller Lites and Coors Lights at the Scoreboard bar in the park until first pitch (used to be $5!). Buy ’em two at a time and watch BP.

    • Dude, just because $6 Miller/Coors is cheap from a stadium standpoint does NOT make it a good deal in the least.

      • Well, Miller and Coors are overpriced no matter what they’re selling for. It’s what my friend used to call “sex in a canoe”… that is… “fuckin’ close to water.”

        (I didn’t notice the Miller/Coors when I replied; I just saw the scoreboard bar and BP and agreed)

  • 26-year-old Me’s response: “Nooooooooooooooo that place is awesome!!!!!!!!!!! Cornhole and beer!!!!!!!!!”
    31-year-old Me’s response: “Meh. I don’t drink Bud Lite or like hanging around drunk 26 year olds.”

  • One of my favorite things about the Fairgrounds is the pre and post game cover bands! The drinks aren’t cheap or good, but the music is free! (Or is there a cover charge that I’m conveniently blocking out of my memory?)

  • I’ll miss the Fairgrounds when it’s gone, but more than that, I’ll miss the few remaining surface lots that allow tailgating close to the ballpark. Nearly all of them are slated for development within the next year or two, and the growing scarcity of parking has driven up the prices to obscene levels.

    • I don’t see parking as an issue, as I’ve always walked or taken the metro. The parking might be a bigger issue for people who live in Manassas or whatever, or people who don’t ride the metro for whatever reasons people have for that.
      And I never really liked tailgating for baseball – both because it’s usually hot where I’ve lived besides DC, and because I like to grab a beer (or more) inside and watch batting practice. But that’s just my own preference.

      • I only drive to the games so I can tailgate. For the cost of food and a few beers in the ballpark, I can pay for parking, drink a few of my own far cheaper beers and even grill out on occasion. And while there’s plenty of available parking right now, I get the impression that it’s going to be far more scarce once a lot of these vacant lots are built upon, because there’s no incentive for all these builders to include excess parking capacity just for ballpark events. It’s just not worth it. It’ll probably convince more people to Metro, but it’s gonna get very expensive for folks who live far from public transit.

        • *cough* Football Town *cough*

          I suppose if I lived far from public transit, sure. But that, to me, is the point of a downtown stadium, and not one that’s out on the interstate outside the city, like many were in the 80s.

      • maxwell smart

        “or people who don’t ride the metro for whatever reasons people have for that” – Too many to list.

        • Fair enough. Metro does suck. But I’m a little jaded about this area embracing suburban sprawl as much as it has: a ton of people living very far away (i.e., beyond the ends of the metro lines) because they presumably hate the city, until they want to do one of the awesome things in it, and then they complain about transportation. “Wah, the Metro is dirty; boo-hoo the beltway is overcrowded because so many of us drive because we think the Metro is dirty.”
          As a way to reliably get across town(s) pretty cheap and reasonably fast, it’s (mostly) fine.

  • WHAT!? Noooooo. This is the first I am hearing of this. Going to the bullpen was my favorite part of going to baseball games…

  • I think it boils down to those with a vested interest vs those without. If I lived in VA – I’d probably prefer the Fairgrounds to stay.

    If I live in or around the area (which I do) – I’d much rather amenities that serve not only before and after games, but all year round. i.e. shops, restaurants, bars, etc.

    • I agree with the second part, but I also know plenty of VA people who much prefer to spend their time and money at the local bars instead. There’s probably a pretty big age correlation too, with younger people preferring the fairgrounds over older. Regardless, I thought everyone knew it was temporary. It struck me as odd that so many people thought it was designed to be permanent.

    • hooville

      Not necessarily. I’m in DC proper, moved right next to a metro, and I’ll miss an outdoor meeting space to socialize before and after that doesn’t include cramming into a small bar or trying to get a tab paid with 500 other fans in the same establishment.

  • Anonynon

    The bullpen was not THAT great…i will always have memories getting trapped there during a thunderstorm i thought i was going to die…we hid in a shipping container to avoid being completely soaked and were kicked out from workers. It was absurd. In that regard it will be nice to have some indoor drinking spots. Hopefully the nats realize that with this going they should offer ‘similar deals’ and atmosphere inside the stadium. It was always a good spot to meet up with friends who show up late and get off at metro.

  • maxwell smart

    What is great about the Fairgrounds is that it is OUTSIDE! Baseball = Summer = Drinking OUTDOORS. Sure there are bars nearby and maybe some of them have tiny patios, but it’s not the same. And what will become of Truckeroo? On Friday’s in the summer it’s a great 1-2 punch – Truckeroo first and then wander over to the Waterfront Concert.

    • IMHO, Baseball = summer = hot as fuck = drink inside before sweating outside in the sun in the stadium for 4 hours.
      Or just walk around the stadium drinking, peoplewatching, and watching BP. Usually the team/stadium get some cut of concession sales, so I figure the extra markup goes to the team, or the general effort.

  • Fuck the Fairgrounds – bring back Adams Mill Bar & Grill!!!!

Comments are closed.