Why the Lerners want a roof over Nationals Park

News that the Lerners want to add a roof over Nationals Park has caused quite a Thanksgiving week stir among Nats fans, with many questioning the hubris of the request and others calling into question the necessity. Over at The Post, Adam Kilgore and James Wagner have compiled an analysis of rain delays and postponements showing that 88 games have been affected in the team’s first six seasons there.

Whether 88 is a big number or a small number can be debated, but that would be missing the point. The real question for the Lerners (and ultimately for the fans), is how many games had attendance impacted by weather. That number could easily be five times higher.

For better or worse, this is a team that depends on a la carte ticket sales. Even when there was a surge in season tickets after the 2012 season, the team capped sales at about half the stadium capacity, and that includes partial season ticket plans. I don’t know if that was an attempt at manufactured scarcity, or some philosophical statement by the owners, but unless the Nats win several World Series in a short period of time, it is likely to continue to be the state of things for the Washington Nationals.

It’s a much more complicated analysis, so I can only speak anecdotally, but it’s my observation that unless the Orioles, Yankees, or Red Sox are visiting, if the forecast is anything other than sunny and warm, attendance will be somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 capacity. And of course, that’s just announced paid attendance. When the actual weather matches the forecast, the true attendance is always much lower. We’ve all been in Nationals Park when the forecast is cold and drizzly, and it turns out to be cold and drizzly. The place is pretty empty.

I’ve had to list a number of my tickets on StubHub over the years. The consistent #1 determinant of whether they sell is… the weather. When the forecast is bad, even when the game is played without postponement or delay, you can’t give them away. By contrast, when the weather is nice, tickets sell even if it’s the Padres or Astros in town.

For what it’s worth, bad weather includes the inevitable mid-summer heat waves that hit DC every year. When it’s 100 degrees outside and the air quality is Code Red for a day game, there may not be a delay, but the entire first base side of the stands becomes no man’s land.

I’m sure the Lerners have compiled and analyzed this data, and I’m sure it’s compelling.

This of course says nothing about whether a retractable roof would be an eyesore, or what circumstances would determine whether it’s opened or closed. There are surely negatives to the idea; but as a fan I want the team to be able to fill the stadium with other fans.

Filling every seat is the single biggest thing the Lerners can do to make for a better day at the ball park. It pumps the crowd and the team, it throws of the opposing pitchers, and it funds free agents and long-term contracts.

Would a roof drive away some fans? Would it be retractable? Would it be an eyesore and block the sun when the weather is nice? Should the Lerners pay for it themselves? Is it even possible to retrofit a roof onto an existing ball park? All good questions. But it’s a good conversation to have.

Photo: Chris Rief

Racing presidents, Nationals Park to be featured on finale of CBS’s The Amazing Race Sunday

 It looks like a mid 60s pennant to me. "Off the floor in '64"CBS’s The Amazing Race will feature Nationals Park, the Nats’ racing presidents and mascot Screech, as the season finale takes place in Washington, DC.

The episode was shot last December, and features a task in which participants are suspended from a zip wire stretching from the center field plaza to the top of the stadium, and toss baseballs as they fly above the mascots on the diamond below.

The episode airs this coming Sunday night at 8:00pm. Preview below.

Video: Today’s Chicken Sacrifice at Nationals Park

Washington Nationals Chicken Man Hugh Kaufman sacrificing a chickenEarlier today, we shared the full story of the chicken sacrifice at Nationals Park, performed by “Rubber Chicken Man” Hugh Kaufman in response to the team’s recent string of injuries.

Here now is the video chronicle, including notes on how to make a rubber chicken kosher, bonus theories about Ozzie Guillen’s voodoo dolls, and The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg cracking up as the ritual is finally completed:

Canine Teddy fan wins Fan of the Game at Pups in the Park

If the 2012 elections were held today, Teddy Roosevelt has an early “leg up” on the canine vote.

Cachucha the pug of Adams Morgan at the Nationals Park Pups in the Park Day photo by Johanna DiazAdams Morgan pug Cachucha brought her owner Johanna Diaz to Nationals Park for Saturday’s “Pups in the Park” day, decked out to support her favorite racing president, Teddy Roosevelt.

Cachucha took the pre-game parade seriously, sporting an elaborate “float” that included a Teddy Roosevelt bobblehead doll mounted on her back.

“She was really hoping her float would give him an edge for a win,” said Diaz.
Let Teddy Win Dog T-Shirt“She was soaking in the glory of being on the field, and sending some good vibes for Teddy.”

Sadly, the pups simply proved to be a distraction for Roosevelt, but Cachucha got a consolation prize: She was featured on the HD scoreboard and voted fan of the game by the Nationals Park crowd.

“Teddy has always been her favorite,” added Diaz. “If she could wear a monocle, she would.”

With three more Pups in the Park promotions scheduled for this summer, perhaps Cachucha can start a whole canine cheering section for our favorite president.

…and if a float isn’t your dog’s thing, there’s always the Let Teddy Win T-Shirt for dogs (above).

Nationals Park photo courtesy of Johanna Diaz

Nationals Park introduces the 8-pound StrasBurger

The Nationals will offer a new menu item at Nationals Park in 2012: an 8-pound cheeseburger dubbed the “StrasBurger.”

The Washington Nationals have introduced an 8 pound burger called the StrasBurger (8 pounds including toppings and fries)The Red Loft and the Red PorchNationals Victory Knot PretzelTaste of the MajorsAs announced by the Nationals and first reported by Dan Steinberg over at the Post this afternoon, the burger will be available at the Red Porch restaurant in the centerfield plaza.

The Nationals said the burger weighs eight pounds total including toppings, and is made from a combination of ground brisket, chuck and short ribs:

“The burger is served on a large burger bun with our secret sauce, American cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions, pickle chips and served with a cone basket of fresh cut fries and a pitcher of your choice of soft drink. This signature dish is the perfect entrée to share at this affordably-priced family restaurant.”

This is the first time we’ve seen the Nats pitch the Red Loft as an “affordable family restaurant.” The price hasn’t been disclosed, but if you’re willing to share, it will likely be a value. An eight pound burger should be able to feed multiple families.

The new item builds on the appeal of the “Victory Knot,” the two-pound pretzel built for sharing that has been available at the Red Loft for the past two seasons. All we need now is a 200-ounce beer and Nats fans will have a value meal for the ages.

The Nationals also announced that the “Taste of the Majors” concession stand behind section 117 will once again get a revamped menu — a seemingly annual tradition. And once again, the team is attempting to do a better job of delivering on the original concept. That is, the stand will have a constantly-changing menu with a dish from visiting team’s city, available during that series only.

It’s a fun concept that’s hard to execute, but like they say, maybe the fourth time’s the charm. Let’s check out what they have in store for the Nationals’ 2012 season:

Atlanta: Smothered Fried Chicken Platter
Baltimore: Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwich Platter
Arizona: Arizona Dog Platter
Chicago: Chicago Dog Platter
Cincinnati: 5-Way Cincinnati Chili
Colorado: Colorado ‘Mile High’ Burger
Houston: Houston Nacho
Los Angeles: L.A. Dog Platter
Miami: Miami Cuban Dog
Milwaukee: Milwaukee Beer Brat Platter
New York (Mets and Yankees): Coney Dog Platter
Philadelphia: Philly Chicken Cheese Steak Platter
Pittsburgh: Pitts Burger Platter
St. Louis: BBQ Rib Platter
San Diego: San Diego Fish Taco Platter
San Francisco: San Fran Garlic Fries and Shrimp Platter
Tampa Bay: Tampa Salty Dog Platter

Hmm… Kudos to the Nationals and Levy Restaurant Group for continuing to try to make this concept work, but with more than half of the “regional specialties” listed as burgers or dogs, they might still have some work to do.

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park gives suburban Nats fans a new transportation alternative

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park - LogoBrian Bowman was a Nationals fan with a problem.

A Nats fan “since the beginning,” Bowman, 33, never bought season tickets because his family lives in Ashburn, Virginia, and could only take so many taxing rush hour drives through suburban traffic to reach Nationals Park. “I’m not near the Metro,” Bowman says, “and the drive can be hard.”

This season, he’s teaming with two friends to do something about it.

The three Virginia natives have joined to launch Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park, a service that shuttles fans en mass from restaurant parking lots in suburban Maryland and Virginia to Nationals Park and back.

“We want to turn something mundane like getting to the game into something relaxing and fun,” said Bowman. “The Ballpark Bus adds to the total fan experience.”

Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park Website ballparkbus.comThe service will start taking reservations at BallparkBus.com in March, well in advance of the Nationals April 12 home opener. Until then, the website points to their new Facebook page, where they are asking for feedback to determine which locations have the most demand.

The service will rely on the web and social networks to schedule fan buses based on need. “It’s a new concept of mass transit on demand,” says Bowman.

Fans can request a free reservation to any game from the participating restaurant that’s closest to them. Once a request has been made, “social tools” help fans recruit additional passengers from their own social networks and on the website. When enough reservations are made, the location is officially added to the ticketing schedule, with those early reservations receiving a discounted seat price.

Ballpark Bus will drop fans off just outside the first base entrance to Nationals Park at Potomac Avenue on the Anacostia River, which should add to the appeal compared to remote parking or Metro.

In addition to the Facebook page, Ballpark bus has posted a video showing how it works:

Bowman, who is an Art Director at a local agency, plans to add some “fun promotions” for bus passengers, but isn’t pitching Ballpark Bus as a party bus. The team is still working out whether alcohol will be allowed.

Pricing has not been published, but “will be competitive with other forms of transport to the park such as Metro and parking,” said Bowman. “A top priority for us is to keep the price down so its family friendly.”

Bowman is hoping the service can help grow the ranks of Nationals fans from locations as disparate as Loudon, Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Prince William and Anne Arundel counties, adding “We want to get information from the riders and build it around what they want.”

As of this morning, the site’s Facebook survey showed an early preference for locations along I-66 (Tysons, Fairfax, Centerville, Manassas), followed by the Dulles Toll Road (Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn), I-270 (Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown), and I-95 South (Springfield, Lorton, Woodbridge).

Photos courtesy Ballpark Bus to Nationals Park

Nationals quietly support candlelight vigil for Wilson Ramos

Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals ParkThe Washington Nationals have remained silent on the Wilson Ramos kidnapping at the request of government and law enforcement officials, but that didn’t prevent the team from quietly supporting the impromptu candlelight vigil tonight in front of Nationals Park.

The vigil was organized entirely by fans via Twitter in a matter of hours. Those who braved freezing temperatures to show their support for the Ramos family arrived to find tables set up with coffee and hot chocolate, courtesy of the team.

The Nats also let it be known that the area around the center field gate fence is open territory for signs to be left in support of their catcher.

9:50pm UPDATE: The Ramos family has just confirmed that they received a call from authorities telling them that Wilson Ramos has been found and freed!

11:00pm UPDATE: Statement from Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: “The news from Venezuela tonight is reassuring. Though details are limited and we have not yet talked directly with Wilson, we are thrilled with reports that he has been rescued and is being safely returned to his family. We greatly appreciate all the prayers and thoughts of all who have joined us in wishing for this conclusion to what has been a nightmarish 48 hours. We are eager to see Wilson and let him know just how many all over the world have been waiting for this news.”

Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals ParkCandlelight Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals ParkWilson Ramos Nationals Vigil SignCandlelight Vigil for Wilson Ramos at Nationals Park

And finally, just after midnight, from @educal1973 and Mauricio Centeno at El Carabobeño newspaper:

Wilson Ramos Rescued

%d bloggers like this: