No Beer—But I Can Touch the Capitol Dome?

People are flocking to two new $600-million-plus taxpayer-funded attractions—the Capitol Visitor Center, which is marking its first summer, and Nationals Park, marking its second. How do these expensive new landmarks compare?

By: Garrett M. Graff

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Nationals Park
Capitol Visitor Center
 Total Cost  More than $611 million  $621 million
 Time To Construct  22 months  6 years
 Dirt Excavated  340,948 cubic yards  650,000 cubic yards
 Overall Size  14 acres  5 acres
 Major Booster  Former DC mayor Tony Williams  Former Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman
 Controversy  Not only was it expensive and taxpayer-funded, but the Nationals’ owners withheld millions in rent in 2008, saying the ballpark wasn’t “substantially complete.”  Not only was it expensive and taxpayer-funded, but senator Jim DeMint charged that it failed to honor “our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success.”
 Entrance Fee  $5 to $335  Free
 Statuary Feature  Baseball greats such as the Washington Senators’ Frank Howard  State heroes such as Utah’s Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television
 Respected But Hapless Leader  Manny Acta  Nancy Pelosi
 Oversize Icon  The Racing Presidents  Statue of Freedom
 Fun Sideshow  PlayStation Pavilion  11-foot-tall touchable model of Capitol dome
 Typical Souvenir  Baseball cap  Replica of the US Constitution
 Cost Of A Half-Smoke  $6.50 ($6.75 if ordered “all the way” with chili, mustard, and onions)  $4.95
 Chili Dog  $7.50 (bottled or draft with souvenir cup)  There is none
 Beer  675 toilets and urinals  172 toilets and urinals
 Bathroom Facilities  47-by-101-foot HD scoreboard  19-by-34-foot orientation-movie screen
 Largest Single-Day Crowd  40,386 (opening day 2009)  19,500 (April 20, 2009)
 Estimated Annual Attendance  2,320,400 (2008)  3 million (projected for 2009)

This article first appeared in the July 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here

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