On Wednesday, the Washington Nationals provided a sneak peak of new features at Nationals Park for the 2010 season. The entertainment, food and parking additions as well as extensive renovations of the PNC Diamond Club are designed to enhance the ballpark experience for Nats fans this season.
Those new features begin as soon as you walk to the Center Field Plaza where two new exclusive season ticker holder gates have been added. The express lines are well marked with a welcoming red velvet carpet to match the Red Carpet Rewards program offered to season ticket holders last winter. To enter, you must show a season ticket or the Nationals MVP card issued to season ticket holders each year.
The Nationals also made quite a few changes to the Red Porch and Red Loft areas to expand space for families and fans to watch games while dining. Additional drink rails have replaced three rows of Red Loft seats and beer offerings have increased from four to eight with popular favorites Blue Moon, Dogfish 60 Minute IPA and Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen.
New menu items at the Red Porch include caribbean wings, chicken club sandwich, chicken tender basket, southwest steak salad, turkey cobb salad, onion rings, Red Porch velvet cupcakes (yum!), and chocolate banana stack cake.
Speaking of food -- there are many new concession items all throughout the park. Some popular new items include a bottomless tub of popcorn for $7 and a giant "victory knot" pretzel sold at the Pit and the Red Loft. The pretzel is made of two pounds of dough and served with three dipping sauces (chipotle honey mustard, sweet cinnamon creme and beer cheese). It's delicious.
The Triple Play Grill (adjacent to Hard Times Cafe and Noah's Pretzels in Left Field), will serve a crab cake sandwich, shrimp po boy sandwich and a Florida Footlong SeaDog. The "seadog" is a footlong strip of fried cod shaped like a hot dog.
The "seadog" will also represent the Marlins at the Taste of the Majors stand in Sections 117 and 313. Five Major League Footlong Hot Dogs will include the DC dog (chili, onions and mustard), the Philly dog (cheese sauce, peppers and onions), the SeaDog, the Atlanta dog (chili and coleslaw) and the NY dog (sauerkraut and mustard).
Nearby, at "Change-up Chicken," the Nats will feature a variety of chicken choices including buffalo chicken tenders, a BBQ grilled chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a chicken and waffle sandwich. The last item is an open face fried chicken breast on a waffle with cayenne maple syrup. Since we sampled the food, I can give you this advance warning. It's messy but pretty good. I'd steer the little kids away from this one.
Instead, kids can enjoy the new Rookies Cart in Section 143. It will feature a Panini grill serving peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and honey, grilled cheese and hot dogs. As a peanut butter and jelly aficionado, you may see me in this line from time to time.
Grilled cheese is a new item for adults too and you can find it at the Dupont Deli in Section 227 along with a grilled Italian sandwich and a grilled turkey sandwich. Other relatively healthy options await at the Healthy Plate Cart in Section 110 which adds a chopped vegetable salad and a cajun chicken wrap to its menu. Fans can also find a new grilled portobello and vegetable sandwich in the Stars and Stripes Club.
Beyond watching calories, if the goal is eating healthy, fresh, whole food, fans will be pleased that the Nationals have teamed up with Niman Ranch, a network of 650 independent family farmers who raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably. Niman Rach products will be served in the PNC Diamond Club, the luxury suites and on the Club Level. Offerings will include Apple Gouda, Chipotle Cheddar and Spicy Italian sausage and an All-Beef Fearless Frank with gourmet toppings. Along those same lines, the Nationals will also add a Farm to Fork chefs table in the PNC Diamond Club which features seasonal, local ingredients.
Which brings us to the PNC Diamond Club, the one area of the park that underwent complete renovations this offseason. Additions include exterior pennants, new lighting, brick accent walls, six beers on tap, leather lounge chairs, expanded kitchen, seventeen 40' Sony HDTVs, an enlarged stone foyer and an expanded bar with glass mosaic tiles and granite counter tops. A video introduction to the new PNC Diamond Club narrated by in-game host Clint mentioned possible wine tastings and lecture series in this space.
The other renovated area is the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk and Beerpen. The Miller Lite party nights are expanded to Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Those parties include music (bands and DJs), a special $20 ticket (Scoreboard seat and drink voucher) and pregame drink specials ($5 beer). The Nationals also added outdoor lounge furniture and shuffle board, ring toss, bag ball and corn hole games.
Lastly, two economy parking options have replaced the RFK Shuttle service. For $5 or $10, fans can park in Lots HH (100 SW Freeway, SE) and W (600 L Street, SE).
I hope I covered it all. The foods I sampled were delicious and the PNC Diamond Club looks beautiful. We even watched new in-game scoreboard video features and you're going to love those too. Nationals fans are sure to enjoy all of the updates and changes that continue to make Nationals Park one of the best places to experience Major League Baseball.