Yesterday, the Nationals invited the media to take a tour of Nationals Park for a sneak peek at the new giveaways, events, food and more coming to the ballpark in the 2016 season. If what I’m about to show you doesn’t get you excited for the start of a new baseball season, I don’t know what will.
Bear with me - this list ranges from dumplings to birthday parties to bobbleheads to Racing Presidents dressed as Wookies.
But first, let’s talk about some logistical new additions. If you’ll remember, Major League Baseball implemented the use of metal detectors at all major league ballparks last year. This year, the Nationals have added metal detectors to all entrances, including the third and first base entrances. Plus, K-9 police dogs will also be present at all games this season.
And now the fun begins ...
The Nationals are excited to welcome their 25 millionth fan on opening day next week. This lucky fan will receive a pair of opening day tickets for the next 25 years! They will also receive a special Nats jersey and jacket, Nats Bucks credit, will be acknowledged during the game on Nats HD and will visit the ownership box.
Did I mention the opening day tickets for the next 25 years? Talk about lucky.
If you’re coming to Nats Park this season, you better bring your appetite. The Nats have added new concessions and expanded a couple of fan favorites for this year.
During this offseason in the “Pitch Your Product” culinary contest, the Nationals gave local vendors and restaurants from D.C., Maryland and Virginia the chance to pitch their culinary concepts for the chance to be sold at Nats Park. The winners are Haute Dog and Fries of Northern Virginia and Maryland-based Pinch Dumplings.
Haute Dog and Fries, available in section 105, offers hot-off-the-grill, gourmet hot dogs and hand-cut French fries. The franks are made with local products and served on New England-style buns. (The Banh mi dog had a great Southeast Asian spicy kick to it.)
Pinch Dumplings offers a variety of locally sourced, hand-made Chinese dumplings, including pork, beef and vegetarian options. They also had a crab, asparagus and mushroom option, which was my favorite. You’ll find Pinch Dumplings in section 302.
Based on fan feedback, the Nationals have expanded concession stands on the Gallery Level to provide more variety and greater convenience with the addition of e-cash lines to decrease waiting times for Nats Plus members.
Two new Mike Isabella concepts are coming to Nats Park this season: Kapnos at the Park and Catchfly. Kapnos at the Park, a spin-off of Isabella’s Greek-inspired Kapnos restaurant on 14th Street, will be located in section 301. Fans will find chili cheesesteak and fried chicken gyros, Greek potatoes, tzatziki and hummus. Catchfly takes you down south, named for a flower commonly found throughout the southern U.S. and a nod to a common baseball play (get it?). Also located in section 301, Catchfly will feature barbecue ribs, popcorn chicken (which really pops) and a special hot southern chicken sandwich.
On Rye will serve Jewish-style deli sandwiches, such as the Reuben, along with signature babka ice cream sandwiches. Eat them up quick - those ice cream sandwiches will melt fast in the dog days of July and August!
A couple of popular grub spots will be getting upgrades this season. Due to high demand, Shake Shack has expanded into a larger space, making it one of the burger and milkshake chain’s largest locations in the world. Virginia Country Kitchen will also be expanding to the Gallery Level in section 315 along with their location in section 113.
Need something to wash all that down with? Beginning the season, Anheuser-Busch will be the new official beer partner of the Nationals. Fans of legal age at Nats Park will now be able to enjoy new beer options including Budweiser, Bud Light, Goose Island, Shock Top, Stella Artois and Blue Point Toasted Lager. Fans will still be able to find local craft beers and other brands throughout the ballpark. However, several bars and areas in the park will be rebranded:
* The Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk will now be the Budweiser Terrace
* The Miller Lite Beer Pen will now be the Swing Big Beer Pen
* The Red Loft will now be the Bud Light Loft
* The Red Porch will now be the Budweiser Brewhouse
* The Heineken Star Bar will now be the Shock Top Bar
* The Samuel Adams Bar will now be the Goose Island Pub
Also, the Nats are introducing the new Lime-A-Rita Lookout in the Gallery Level.
OK, enough food talk because I’m getting hungry.
The PNC Diamond Club got a complete renovation this offseason, transforming into a much bigger two-floor space with more bars and TVs, plus a new kitchen and audio system. The Presidents Club will now be known as the Delta Sky360 Club as part of the Nats’ new partnership with Delta Airlines, the official airline and private jet carrier of the Nationals. And the Lansinoh Nursing Mother’s Lounge in section 223 was expanded with comfortable chairs, TVs and diaper-changing stations for mothers and a play area for toddlers.
The Nationals are also introducing two new ticketing packages this season. The Home Plate Tailgate Package will provide fans with the ultimate tailgating experience in the white tent located next to the Home Plate Gate, previously part of the PNC Diamond Club. The all-inclusive pregame group package will include popular tailgating games, such as cornhole (does anyone need a partner?) and ladder golf, as well as food, beer, wine and a seat in right field. This package will be available for guests to enjoy 90 minutes prior to every game
Meanwhile, the Nationals Birthday Party Zone Package is for the younger Nats fans on their special days. Available at every Friday, Saturday and Sunday home game, this package allows party attendees to celebrate an hour before the game in Center Field Social (where the team store used to be) with Enzo’s pizza, cupcakes, drinks and a visit from a mascot. The Nats will also shoot special footage of the birthday boy or girl to be used in-game on the scoreboard. Also, the birthday boy or girl will be able to go to the team store and pick out a special birthday present from the Nationals.
So that’s opening day tickets for 25 years and birthday presents already being handed out ... no, I haven’t gotten to the giveaways yet.
Speaking of the team store, the Nationals will be operating the main team store at Nats Park for the first time, providing fans with better prices, a broader selection and exclusive styles.
So what about those special events? Well, here’s an look at what you can get and attend this year at Nats Park:
Bobbleheads (to the first 25,000 fans):
* Bryce Harper MVP bobblehead on Wednesday, May 11
* Max Scherzer no-hitter bobblehead (piece one of two) on Monday, May 23
* Dusty Baker bobblehead on Tuesday, July 19
* Max Scherzer no-hitter bobblehead (piece two of two) on Friday, Aug. 26
* Nationals Fan Choice Bobblehead on Friday Sept. 9
Stay tuned for more information on the Fan Choice Bobblehead and be sure to watch on opening day when the winner will be announced during the live broadcast of the game on MASN2!
Other giveaway items (to the first 25,000 unless otherwise noted):
* Nationals sunglasses on the home opener on Thursday, April 7
* Racing President Teddy window cling to the first 20,000 fans on Tuesday, April 26
* Nationals music speaker on Saturday, May 14
* Bryce Harper Chia Pet to the first 20,000 fans on Tuesday, July 5
* Nationals gnome on Tuesday, Sept. 27
* ’80s Night on Friday, June 10, when the first 20,000 fans will receive a Nats fanny pack
* Rat Pack Night on Saturday, July 2, when the Nats will celebrate the ’60s and the Rat Pack. The first 25,000 fans will receive a Nationals Rat Pack poster, featuring Bryce Harper, Ben Revere, Daniel Murphy and Max Scherzer as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford, respectively, in the famous pool table picture
*Star Wars Day on Saturday, Aug. 13, when the Force returns to Nats Park for the second straight year. The first 20,000 fans will receive a special T-shirt
*Oktoberfest on Saturday, Sept. 10, when the first 20,000 fans 21 and older will receive a Nationals beer stein presented by Budweiser
* Election Night on Friday, Sept. 30, when the first 25,000 fans will be able to choose between a Nats-branded donkey or elephant figurine (12,500 of each available)
Special ticket events:
* Yoga in the outfield on Sunday, May 15, when fans can participate in a 45-minute yoga session on the outfield grass and take home a Nationals yoga mat
* Taste of the World on Saturday, May 27, when the Nationals will celebrate D.C.’s international community with a culinary event featuring flavors from all over the world. Fans will enjoy pregame festivities and take home a set of Nats salt and pepper shakers
* Seniors stroll the bases on Saturday, June 11 and Thursday, Sept. 29, when fans 62 and older can stroll the bases with the Racing Presidents
* College Rivalry Day: Virginia vs. Virginia Tech on Wednesday, June 29, when fans can enjoy pregame festivities and take home a Nats acrylic red cup
* Ladies Night on Thursday, June 30, when fans can enjoy pregame festivities and take home a Nationals infinity scarf
Get your calendars out and mark down the the giveaway days that most intrigue you! And be sure to check out all the new concessions and spaces that will be available all season long! You can also look through the photo album below for pictures of the new additions to Nats Park (including the food).
Can’t wait to see you at the ballpark this year!