Candlelight vigil for Wilson Ramos tonight at Nationals Park

Free Wilson Ramos Candlelight VigilThe entire nation of Venezuela along with baseball fans and concerned citizens in DC and around the world have been on edge since Wednesday night, when news broke of the kidnapping of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos.

Following last night’s candlelight vigil held outside the stadium in Ramos’ home town of Valencia, local fans are building momentum for a similar vigil
to be held tonight outside Nationals Park.

This is an unofficial event, organized by fans. The gathering will begin at 6:00pm outside the Nationals Park center field gate. Dress warmly and bring your own candles, signs, etc.

Please note that the Navy Yard Metro station is closed for maintenance. Free shuttle bus service will operate between the L’Enfant Plaza and Southern Avenue stations to closed Metro stations.

For those wishing to drive, note that parking meter enforcement will not be in effect in observance of the Veterans Day holiday. There will be no enforcement of residential parking or rush hour lane violations, which means parking should be plentiful.

For up-to-date info, you can follow the Twitter hashtag #vigilforramos.



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Teddy welcomes winning team to town with surprise visits & half-price coupon code

DC Metro commuters got a surprise welcome as Teddy Roosevelt and his racing president cohorts greeted passengers with Nationals ticket coupons at the Metro Center exits Monday.

The racing presidents were promoting the homestand that starts with a Free T-Shirt Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park and continues with a Mothers Day weekend series against the Florida Marlins. You couldn’t ask for a better weather forecast, and despite losses Saturday and Sunday, the team arrives in town with a winning record and just 1.5 games out of first place in the NL East.

For the upcoming series, the Nationals have again released a half-price coupon code “for Teddy’s friends”: Order at Nationals.com using Coupon Code “TEDDY” (all caps) and get half-price tickets in select seating sections for the 3-game series vs. the Braves starting tonight at Nationals Park. The coupon is valid for online orders only, and gets you half price in the outfield corners ($18), the outfield mezzanine ($15), or the upper infield gallery ($9).

Abe goes for homestand sweep Sunday at Nationals Park

Washington Nationals fans filled the stands Saturday night to watch pitcher Collin Balester’s inauspicious Nationals Park debut vs. the Houston Astros.

Despite the home team’s recent string of misfortune, it’s good to see the weekend crowds consistently topping 30,000 regardless of opponent. Great weather has certainly helped, and by now Washingtonians are figuring out that parking at Nationals Park is easy and getting to the stadium is a piece of cake whether driving or taking Metro.

Abe Lincoln extended his presidents race winning streak on Saturday at Nationals ParkUnfortunately Saturday night’s presidents race offered no drama for Teddy fans. Abe Lincoln remains on a tear and showed no signs of letting up, chasing Thomas Jefferson from behind and taking the lead in the stretch to keep his streak alive. Teddy Roosevelt did not appear to even try.

Sunday marks the last game before the All Star break and Teddy’s last chance at presidents race glory for several weeks. If Abe wins, it would be his 7th straight and a first-ever presidential sweep of an entire homestand. Somebody’s got to stop him. Why not Teddy? The weather should be good and tickets are available, so Teddy fans — I hope to see you all cheering him on tomorrow at Nationals Park!

Photo by flickr member afagen

Consider Parking This Weekend at Nationals Park

You’ve heard the ads on the radio. The umpire calls “Strike One. Strike Two. Strike Three. You’re Out!” and the voice over intones “Now you know how it feels to try to find parking at a Nats game.”

Regular readers know that I’m a bit angry about the DC Metro’s horrible negative ad campaign, which has convinced people to stay away in droves by telling them that going anywhere near Nationals Park in a car is a recipe for disaster. You’ve also learned that it’s a complete myth.

In fact, after 6 weeks of ball games, I think it’s fair to say that parking at Nationals Park is at least as easy as taking the Metro.

On Tuesday, I took 20 people from my office in Reston, Virginia to a night at our Nationals’ new stadium. Most had never been, and the reason cited was the perceived transportation hassle. In fact, some said they had turned down tickets previously because it wasn’t worth the transportation nightmare.

We all had a great time. The close game vs. the Phillies kept everybody on the edge of their seats, but the thing that got the most comments from the first-timers was how shockingly easy it was to get in and out. Some took Metro, but most followed the easy parking directions at Nationals.com.

On a weekday evening, using the free Nats Express parking and shuttle from RFK Stadium, it took about an hour from the time we left Reston to standing inside the park at our meeting spot in the centerfield plaza. My boss, who couldn’t get out of the office until after 6:00pm, raced downtown, drove right up to National Park, paid for the cash valet parking and reported it was the easiest stadium parking he’d ever seen.

The Milwaukee Brewers are coming to town tonight for a Memorial Weekend series. The weather will be spectacular, and I can’t think of a better excuse to load the family in the car and drive to the ball park. See for yourself how easy it is, then join me in pleading with Metro to kill this horrible ad campaign.

Parking at Nationals Park? Piece of Cake!

The presidential primaries have got nothing on the Washington Metro when it comes to negative advertising. Every day, I am bombarded by radio ads telling me that if I choose to drive to Nationals park, I will not find parking, miss the entire game, and regret it for the rest of my life.

What’s wrong with this picture?

As thousands of fans can testify, the free Nats Express parking has been a piece of cake since opening day. Simply drive to Lot 8 at RFK Stadium, hop on one of many
waiting shuttle buses, and be at the park in 10 minutes. There is never a traffic problem getting to Lot 8 via 395, and even after a game, the buses move quickly.

This week, as promised, my son and I decided to try one of the new cash parking lots which surround Nationals Park.

We chose Lot HH, because at $15.00 per game it’s the cheapest cash parking option, and while valet parking sounds convenient, it’s not likely to appeal to the masses.

Cash Lot HH at Nationals Park feels like one of those secrets reserved for DC residents in the know. The location is on South Capitol Street underneath the I-395 ramps — not easy to find if you’re not looking for it, but easy to get to from the C Street exit on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.

Yes, it sounds like a scary location, but as you can see it was all well-lit, with it’s own traffic light and crosswalk to set you on your way to Nationals Park or back home without any hassles.

The parking lot was practically empty despite a near-sellout game, and the walk to the Nationals Park gate was a safe and leisurely 10 minutes, accompanied both ways by fans heading from the Capitol South metro stop.

As for traffic, here’s South Capitol Street right in front of Nationals Park a half hour before the first pitch on a dreaded weeknight.

So Metro, I have to ask, “Where’s the beef?” In reality, the worst backups I’ve seen near Nationals Park have been at the entrance to the Navy Yard Metro station.

I’m a big fan of Metro, but the team has got to put a stop to this scare campaign, which is keeping people away from the park. Stan Kasten and Adrian Fenty should both be calling for Metro to fire its ad agency and start over.

The Nationals’ Big Marketing Mistake

After their first complete homestand at the new Nationals Park, the Washington Nationals are ranked 20th among Major League Baseball teams in home attendance, and averaging fewer paid spectators than the team did at this point in their first season at RFK stadium.

Perhaps most striking is the lack of bodies in the new stadium’s most visible seats — the “Presidential Seats” which sit directly behind home plate and serve as a backdrop for televised shots of the batter’s box.

Possible reasons for the lackluster attendance have been much debated. Team president Stan Kasten says he’s “very pleased” with attendance given the cold weather and the hot playoff pursuits of other DC sports teams. Others have cited the high cost of Nationals Park tickets and concessions, or the team’s losing record.

I blame it on The Myth.

The Myth was born from a well-intentioned effort to promote the use of Metro to get to Nationals home games. Team, city, and Metro officials worked their tails off to get the word out. They talked about it non-stop, held press events, and devoted significant advertising and PR dollars to the cause.

The problem? They put the creative message in the hands of marketing amateurs, and the campaign went negative.

Why not? Negative works, right? Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are some of the greatest tools in the marketing arsenal. Attacking the competition (in this case, trying to park at the Park) is a time-tested and reliable method of getting people’s attention. Positive is boring.

So the message got delivered, and it wasn’t “Take Metro!” or “Try our free parking shuttle!” The message was clear. Parking is a nightmare. Take Metro or your life will be miserable.

Local news producers love fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It helps them invent drama where none exists. So they jumped on the bandwagon quickly with “public interest” feature stories about how terrible the parking situation is going to be.

A radio ad running non-stop for the last 6 weeks profiles a man who drives around Nationals Park for inning after inning looking for a parking spot. The man is desperate. He is miserable. He misses the entire game. The voiceover intones “Don’t drive and try to park at Nationals Park!”

It worked too well.

I know dozens of people who have shared or partial-season ticket plans. In March, as they picked their games, everybody told me that they were trying to avoid the first few homestands, “to let them get this parking and traffic mess figured out.”

The Myth is that transportation to Nationals Park is a nightmare, and this myth was created by the team itself. I haven’t seen any meaningful traffic, parking, or crowd issues. It’s time for the powers that be to pull this campaign and go positive instead.

Nationals Park from photo by Flickr user Ouij.
Navy Yard Metro from photo by Flickr user MissChatter.

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