Season ticket holders react to the Nationals’ souvenir “commemorative” paper tickets

The Washington Nationals are pitching their new Ultimate Ballpark Access as a great boon for season ticket holders. As noted in our annual opening day review of changes at Nats Park, many features of the new access cards have yet to be introduced, so the benefits will be seen over time.

Nationals Opening Day Souvenir Ticket and Ultimate Access Cards

Season ticket holders received one souvenir opening day ticket per account, along with the new “Ultimate Access” cards

Washington Nationals Souvenir Commemorative Ticket Replacement $3.00

The Washington Nationals are selling ticket holders “souvenir” paper tickets for $3.00 each.

In the meantime, the team went out of its way to appease those looking for a paper ticket, announcing before the season that season ticket holders would receive one commemorative “souvenir” paper ticket for opening day, and could obtain additional souvenir paper tickets for any game at the ball park for an added fee of $3.00 per ticket, with the funds going to the Nationals Dream Foundation.

“Not approaching the level of the commemorative tickets in years past,” wrote Nats fan Gerry Gleckel Jr. about the opening day ticket, “…and only one per subscriber? Should my two seatholders trade every half inning? Yuck.”

Then Monday, the $3.00 souvenir tickets made their debut at Nationals Park, and an informal poll of season ticket holders at the park and on Facebook produced a flood of reactions ranging from mild disappointment to unprintable outrage. Here are just a few of the responses:

“Not impressed,” said DC resident Susan Vavrick. “I would have thought a commemorative ticket would look nicer than that.”

“Three bucks for a piece of paper that isn’t the real ticket? C’mon,” said journalist and DC resident Max Cacas. “Give people a chance to print it out at the ballpark for free, and charge a modest fee to have a nice print suitable for framing. But not this way.”

“It has to have images on it before I’d buy,” added DC resident Andy Kostas.

“Don’t these people understand that many fans like to tickets as momentos of particular games?,” asked Alfonse Mannato. “Just stupid to charge $3 for a souvenir that lacks images.”

“How can they be so smart in team building and so ignorant in something as simple as this?,” wrote Virginia season ticket holder James Taylor. “Go figure, I sure can’t.”

And finally, from DC blogger and season ticket holder Tom Bridge:

“Nothing says ‘I was there’ quite like ‘Not Valid For Entry.’”

Personally, I applaud the Nats’ desire to be technology trendsetters, but if I’m in the ball park when Stephen Strasburg pitches his first no-hitter, I think I’m going to want to frame something better than this.

Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Received a positive comment worth sharing from Nats fan Michael Cusick: “It is pretty hard on the eyes. I think all would have been forgiven if they had put a little hologram on it. But the three bucks goes to charity (if I heard the story right) so I’m OK with it. And I would rather have a good team than fireworks and fancy ticket stubs.”

Food, parking, organ music, and other changes at Nationals Park for 2013

The swagger that comes with high expectations wasn’t the only new thing on display at Nationals Park on opening day Monday. The Nationals have made a number of small changes to the ballpark experience for 2013.
Championship banner at Nationals ParkNationals Park Scoreboard Walk PhotoNationals Park Clubhouse Team StoreNationals Park Organist - Washington Nationals

In the park itself, NL East Champion banners now hang above the centerfield gate entrance, above the center field HD scoreboard, and outside the Presidents Club. The giant Scoreboard Walk photo has also been changed to feature Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in the 2012 playoffs. In the scheme of things, the signage changes are small, which makes the recent whining by a prominent Phillies blogger all the more perplexing.

More significant are the retail changes. One of the two banks of ticket windows on N Street NW has been replaced by a flagship team store, and several team concessions inside the park have been renamed “Clubhouse,” with new locations added around both the main and mezzanine concourses. In some cases, these new concession locations block formerly open views of the field from the concourse.

For those who drive to Nationals Park, expanded retail development in the area is taking its toll on Nats’ official parking lots. Since Nationals Park opened, lots G, J, M, N, V, and HH have disappeared from the Nationals’ official parking options.

This season, the disappearance of $5.00 lot HH from the official parking map caused concerns for budget-minded drivers. We recommended this parking option in previous years, so it was some relief to find that the lot is in fact still operating on a cash basis. The price is now $10, and still a bargain.

The Nationals had an organist playing in the center field plaza before Monday’s game, and word on the street is that it was a trial run, with the Nats’ brass considering making it a permanent fixture at games. Notably absent from Monday’s opener were persistent scoreboard cheer-starters, noise meters, and other artificial enticements we’ve come to expect. Logic holds that if the Nats keep winning and selling out, it shouldn’t take more than a little organ music (and a couple of Bryce Harper home runs) to get the crowd going.

Nats fans still mourning the departure of slugger Michael Morse via trade got a bittersweet surprise during the seventh inning stretch. After “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” fans were treated to A Ha’s “Take On Me,” Morse’s walk-up song that became a crowd favorite in 2011 and 2012. Morse may be in Seattle now, but if fans continue to sing along, expect the Nats to keep using it.

Turkey Hill Ice Cream and Papa Johns Pizza at Nationals ParkShawafel at Nationals Park - Felafel SchwarmaShawafel at Nationals Park - Felafel SchwarmaShawafel at Nationals Park - Felafel SchwarmaPresidents Race Intro Video2013 brings new food options to Nationals Park, some of which may not be welcome. On the pizza and ice cream front, Flippin’ Pizza and Breyers have been replaced by Papa Johns and Turkey Hill. Papa Johns was the team’s pizza purveyor from 2005 through 2009, and fans cheered its departure three years ago when their bland mini pizzas were replaced by actual slices by Flippin’ Pizza. Unless the product has changed, this feels like a step backwards.

In the centerfield food court, local favorite Red Hot & Blue has been ousted in favor of H Street Lebanese mainstay Shawafel. Shawafel serves a selection of Lebanese wraps containing shawarma (chicken or beef/lamb), felafel, or fried cauliflower, plus french fries that are unquestionably the best at Nationals Park.

Shawafel is a nice, if redundant, addition. Max’s Kosher Grill serves superior felafel and shawarma on the other side of the concourse, but being kosher, they are closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Up in the Club level, we’re told to expect cupcakes from Fluffy Thoughts Bakery in McLean. These are hands down the best cupcakes in the DC area, and Fluffy Thoughts is concocting some special baseball-themed flavors for Nationals Park. More on that later.

Of course, 2013 brings a major change to the fourth inning presidents race, where the Nats have introduced a fifth racing president, William Howard “Bill” Taft. The presidents are being introduced by a new video that was created during February’s cross-country trip to Mount Rushmore, with presidents dashing from Mount Rushmore through various landmarks on their way to the starting line at Nationals Park.

Perhaps the biggest change to the off-the-field experience is the introduction of Ultimate Ballpark Access cards for season ticket holders. The program promises many benefits that have yet to be introduced, so we’ll withhold judgment for now. The Nats have been very quick to fix early mistakes with the way cards are managed, so as flawed as it may be, it may be wise to wait a few months to see how the the program develops. One exception: Season ticket holders looking for a souvenir paper ticket are being charged $3.00 each for something that looks like it came out of an inkjet printer. The Nats should kill this fee if they can’t at least improve the quality.

What do you think of the changes so far?

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